Letter: A regional dispatch center is wrong for our community

[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to mysouthborough@gmail.com.]

To the Editor:

The Town of Southborough and its residents deserve to have locally based public safety communications and 911 dispatching, and a police headquarters that is staffed 24 hours a day.

These are fundamental municipal services and basic expectations that almost every community has in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A proposal under consideration that would merge Southborough into a shared regional dispatch center is wrong for our community and would represent a downgrade in the quality of service.

It would also place town residents and other members of the public in the position of having no safe haven at Southborough Police Headquarters. Not overnight. Not early in the morning. Not at any time of the day at all.

Public safety is a basic responsibility of any municipality. The operations that ensure the safety and security of our community is no place for outsourcing. 

As a veteran dispatcher of more than 10 years in Southborough, I have provided emergency aid to heart attack victims suffering life-threatening symptoms, provided safety and security at our dispatch center to several domestic violence victims fleeing an abuser, and delivered important guidance and information to hundreds of people while on duty for overnight shifts.

A community police station is supposed to be a touchpoint for safety and security for anyone in need of assistance, at any time of the day. And as dispatchers we are trained to deliver on that promise as part of the services we provide as public safety communications specialists. 

Additionally, the importance of a public safety dispatch staff that is dedicated and responsible for THIS community cannot be overstated. Local dispatchers build an important personal relationship with police, fire and other emergency personnel as well as with other municipal service providers and the public at large. We quickly develop a comprehensive understanding of the community we serve and a set of best practices for assessing a situation and dispatching the necessary emergency personnel to a scene.

More and more courts today are ordering that defendants be taken into custody at the local police headquarters. We also accept incident reports, applications for firearms ID cards and licenses to carry, and provide directions and other information to members of the public. A public safety headquarters should be a safe place for someone to come to – 24 hours a day. Southborough spent nearly $20 million on our station. The community has done its part and deserves round-the-clock coverage.

The evidence on the effectiveness of regional dispatch centers is not strong. They have a high turnover. And they leave the member communities that do not host the actual dispatch center with a darkened and locked HQ for up to 24 hours every day.

Furthermore, once a municipality joins a regional dispatch center there is simply no going back without tremendous cost when the community realizes it was a mistake. Once a municipality forfeits its E-911 computer system, it’s gone for good.

Finally, the Select Board’s process for reviewing this proposal continues to lack any real transparency. The members of the Southborough Communications Officers union (MassCOP Local 445) have not been consulted or asked to participate in any way. Neither have the members of MassCOP Local 167 – the Southborough police officers union. The officers who patrol Southborough and are sworn to protect and serve the public share our grave concern with this proposal to outsource public safety.

The public – until just recently – has been almost completely left out of the process. But the opposition and outrage are gathering. The people of Southborough do not want public safety outsourced. And they are angry that the Select Board has conducted most of its work on this proposal with no input. The public has a right to have a say on such a critical issue. 

Kyle Devincent,
President of the Southborough Communications Officers Union
MassCOP Local 445

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John Kendall
1 month ago

As a retired town firefighter, and a resident, I would like to point out that each department dispatched their own calls. At the fire department, on duty personnel would dispatch the call, push a switch to transfer everything over to the police department, then get in the apparatus and go to the call. When 9-1-1 came to town, the police and fire departments combined everything, and the police took over dispatching. This eliminated delays in response. I know why Chief Achilles wants to go regional, and I agree with most of the arguments. As for now, when I’m at home, I listen to the calls on my scanner. A few of our dispatchers need immediate retraining.

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