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Police department budget could depend on future of dispatch

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published: October 16, 2016 12:02 AM
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Hudson -- Council looked at capital expenses for 2017 and metrics for the police department during budget talks Oct. 11.

The 2017 budget for the police is $4.7 million compared to $4.5 million in 2016, with the majority for personnel.

Finance Director Jeff Knoblauch pointed out the department's capital expenses for next year.

The $89,495 budgeted in 2017 is for cruiser equipment, cruiser graphics, a voice recorder for dispatch radio/phones, car video replacement, RADAR replacement, AEDs and a flat screen television for the station.

City Manager Jane Howington said the $15,495 that would go toward a voice recorder for dispatch radio/phones may not be spent if dispatch is discontinued. City officials have talked in the past about contracting with neighboring communities for a safety forces dispatch instead of handling it in house.

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"The last eight years, we've discussed dispatch," Howington said. "Every year we have to look at it to continue it."

Council has plans to discuss the future of dispatching after the 2017 budget is finalized and voted on in December.

The five-year budget forecast also included an unfunded amount of $472,353 which would be impacted by dispatching changes, with $10,000 toward dispatch computers; $150,000 toward Next Generation 911; and $312,253 toward MCC 7500 Dispatch Console.

Police Chief David Robbins explained the Next Generation 911 is the next evolution in emergency calls and allows vocal messages, photos, video and texting.

The Next Generation 911 console is required in 2017, Howington said.

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"We have to determine if we are going the way we are going," she said.

Howington said the police have three top priorities: expand community relationships; drug awareness; and increase downtown patrols.

All city departments have been asked by staff and Council to use performance measures to solve problems, she said. The department heads can look at trends and identify when there is a problem.

Some of the measures used in the police department include types of crimes, response time and number of traffic violations.

"We're looking to see what is effective and where they may need more resources," Howington said.

Council member Dennis Hanink wanted to know what factors drive the number of officers and how they are deployed and the equipment they need.

"How do we understand the effectiveness of our police force?" Hanink said. "I want to understand the preparation of the numbers in the budget. The metrics should help us to understand it."

But Robbins disagreed with the use of performance measures to accurately depict the department's work.

"The information is being captured," Robbins said. "But when I see performance measures, it's quotas."

He said when a police department gives citations to traffic actions, it is reactive.

"I don't think performance measures should be tickets," Robbins said. "If I need more men, I'll ask for them."

Howington said "statistics are not performance measures," but the city could put statistics on the city website for the public to look at.

The residents want to know where burglaries occur, Robbins said. But burglaries are hard to solve because thieves leave little physical evidence and are gone by the time the call comes in.

"If we based our metrics on solving burglaries, we'd all be fired," Robbins said. "And if crime goes down, should I reduce the police force?"

In addition, there are 8,400 houses in Hudson. The police department cannot be responsible for home security, Robbins said. It begins with the homeowner.

"We respond when there's a break-in," Robbins said. "We can offer tips or advice, but I would never have enough manpower to have an effect on the burglary rate."

Robbins said police notify the homeowner association so neighbors know about the crime, but the police cannot prevent a burglary.

Another factor that skews metrics is identity theft. It isn't committed by a neighbor. The person is across the country or overseas, Robbins said. The police take the report for banks to recover the funds.

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP


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