Proposed 9-1-1 center closures concern city, police
MASSAC COUNTY, Ill. — They are the men and women on the other end of the line when you need serious help, fast.
9-1-1 dispatchers take those calls and help officers and emergency personnel find you when seconds could be the difference between life and death.
That's why a local city and its police chief are speaking out against the Illinois governor's plan that puts 16 of the 20 Illinois State Police communication centers on the chopping block.
Local 6 asked the governor's office for more details but they forwarded us to state police headquarters, where the spokesperson said the move was not about saving money.
She said she couldn't tell us how many jobs would be lost or specifically how the consolidation would affect local law enforcement.
But Metropolis Police Chief Harold Masse said the move will put his officers and public safety in jeopardy.
"Most of them, when they're hired as dispatchers, are from the area," Masse said.
In this profession, knowing the lay of the land can make the difference between life and death.
"When seconds count, sometimes we're minutes away," Masse said.
That's why the chief and his officers need quick directions from state dispatchers.
"The minutes that could be critical will be lost because we have to figure out what they're talking about," Masse said.
Masse doesn't like the plan that closes the majority of the state communication centers like the closest one in Ullin. Under the new proposal, someone 80 miles away in DuQuoin would take that call.
Under the new plan, a signal is sent to the tower from a cell phone. Let's say someone just crashed along U.S. Highway 45 between Bullock and Massac Creek but local people don't call it that. This is known as "Dead Man's Corner" to locals. The chief said a local dispatcher would know that but someone from DuQuoin might not.
"They know the little nuances and little parks and areas and when people are talking and excited, they are able to understand that," Masse said.
That's why Masse fears what might happen if you call 9-1-1 and it's not someone local on the other end of the line.
It's very important to note that not all 9-1-1 calls are routed to state police dispatch. Masse said many of them go to your local police or sheriff's department but depending on local call volume and even where you're calling from, some of those calls do go to state police. That's when state dispatchers have to give local police directions.
Masse hopes the proposal can be stopped. In fact, Monday night, he persuaded the Metropolis city council to draft a letter to try to persuade the state not to close the communication centers. There's also an online petition to that affect, if you'd like to sign it , click here.
The Illinois State Police spokesperson went on to say while plans are not yet finalized, the consolidation would not compromise officer or public safety. She said it would actually enhance safety and allow the state to use better technology and put more officers on the streets.