Connecticut troopers union displeased with state plan to relocate dispatchers

Despite union pressures to reexamine the consolidation of Connecticut State Police dispatching operations, the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection remains steadfast with plans to relocate Troops A and B dispatchers to Litchfield.

AFSCME Council 4 took the podium Monday in Waterbury, announcing their displeasure with the state’s proposal that would move dispatchers from Troops A and B — in Southbury and North Canaan, respectively — and place them in Troop L’s barracks, located on Route 202 in Litchfield.

The announcement came nearly four months after DESPP officials unveiled the idea to regional officials.

“We want there to be a study,” said Council 4 spokesman Larry Dorman. “The [Gov. Dannel P. Malloy] administration has every right to try and manage its resources as effectively as possible, but we hope that legislators and local elected officials take a look at this and take action. That’s all we want to see.”

Council 4 administrative and clerical staff representative Jeff Scanlon said major concerns ranged from economics to public safety issues. According to Scanlon, the relocation of dispatchers would be costly on personal out-of-pocket expenses and would throw dispatchers into unknown water, compromising public safety.

“A lot of these people live in those towns or that area; they’re familiar with that area and familiar with the people there,” Scanlon said. “This takes the community out of the barracks.”

Scanlon added that the “high stress-level” job of being a dispatcher would be significantly altered by placing the dispatchers in a different setting.

But state officials are sticking to the game plan.

“It’s just change,” said DESPP Deputy Commissioner and State Police Col. Danny R. Stebbins. “It’s not a decision based on the individual; it’s based on the community. It’s great for the greater good.”

The realignment was first proposed by Stebbins during a mid-August meeting, announcing that all 46 North Canaan-based state troopers would be on the road, adding to the patrol force instead of sitting behind a desk. Stebbins said the initiative would not close any barracks and would save the state money.
The cost of a single trooper in the state of Connecticut — including salary, benefits and vehicle and fuel privileges — hovers around $150,000 per year, regardless of whether the trooper is in the field or behind a desk, according to Stebbins. The cost of having a dispatcher is half that.

When the question from Council 4 representatives regarding dispatcher unfamiliarity arose, Stebbins said “they were right” and that training, ride-along opportunities and field experience would be available to relocated dispatchers. Stebbins argued that relocating a dispatcher, and the training that comes with it, is just like any other job with new and unfamiliar tasks.

“It’s not like we’re taking a boat load of work and putting it on Troop L,” Stebbins said.

Council 4 officials said in a bulletin that they plan to lobby for state legislators to act on the proposal, encouraging union members to attend a Jan. 18 informational hearing.

State Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, was present at Stebbins’ initial announcement in August, where he advocated for cost-saving opportunities such as this.

“I thought the consolidation of was a good idea [then] and I still think it’s a good idea,” he said Monday. “If we’re going to start eliminating these opportunities because their inconvenient for someone or they require them learning other tasks, then I don’t know where we’re at.”

Miner said the union’s complaint of having dispatchers commute 30 minutes longer was irrational. “There are probably people all throughout the state of Connecticut that commute over a half an hour. I don’t buy one minute that combining these would put anyone in jeopardy.”

“These people are very capable of adjusting and they are very good employees for the state,” he said.

Stebbins said the North Canaan Troop B dispatch center receives the lowest volume of calls in the state, so by moving dispatchers three towns south wouldn’t hinder the workflow.

Monday’s Council 4 stance — with speakers including Connecticut State Police union president Andrew Matthews, Troop L Safety Dispatcher Robert Klepps, Troop B Safety Dispatcher Brian Johnson and Scanlon — said the increased calls to Litchfield would create greater strife.
“They’re not talking about increasing staff size,” Scanlon said. “The workload increases.”

When state lawmakers approved the budget earlier this year, the allocation for dispatching centralization was also given the green light. Stebbins said during the August meeting that DESPP’s ultimate goal involves having one central dispatch location, similar to cities like New York and Los Angeles, and states like Pennsylvania.

From The Register-Citizen.

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