Sen. Kane: Consolidation of Southbury Barracks Will Impact Public Safety

April 2, 2012

March 30, 2012
Article as it Appeared in the Waterbury Republican-American

People who dial 911 on Interstate 84 in western Connecticut and in the small towns east, south and west of Canaan in Litchfield County will have their calls answered by a dispatcher in Litchfield beginning next week.

State police dispatching centers at Troop A in Southbury and Troop B in Canaan are being consolidated into a facility at Troop L in Litchfield on Friday.

The move is being done to save money. A study by the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection estimated $2 million could be saved by merging dispatch centers from 12 to five across the state, mostly by eliminating civilian dispatcher jobs and putting troopers back on the road to reduce overtime expenses.

Lt. J. Paul Vance, a state police spokesman, said Thursday the only change in service is where calls will be answered.

Trooper staffing levels will remain the same, and the Southbury and Canaan barracks will stay open to the public in an emergency, he said.

The number of dispatch consoles at Troop L has been tripled from two to six to accommodate the move.

“If we didn’t announce it, the public would absolutely see no difference in service,” Vance said. “It’s a consolidation move that will improve our service. It will make us more efficient and more effective.”

Critics, including the Connecticut State Police Union and some lawmakers, say the move will put the public at risk because the state police cannot guarantee that a trooper will be at the barracks at all times — as they are now — if someone comes in with an emergency.

Currently, a trooper works with a dispatcher during each eight-hour shift at the three barracks. That will no longer be the case, as the troopers in Southbury and Canaan will be on patrol.

Union leaders say the two barracks will only be open during the day Monday through Friday, and will be closed to the public during the evening and midnight shifts, all weekends and on state holidays.

Vance said that is not true. He said “99 percent of the time” at least one trooper will be at the barracks to help the public, 24 hours a day.

Call boxes will be installed in Southbury and Canaan so citizens can call a dispatcher, who can contact a trooper to come to the barracks if no one is there, he said.

“If someone was called out for an emergency, a phone would be there, and assistance would arrive almost immediately,” he said.

State police union leaders have asked lawmakers to delay the consolidation so more information can be distributed to the public and leaders of towns served by the Southbury and Canaan barracks.

The move has already been delayed once; it was supposed to take effect Jan. 1.

Union leaders will hold a meeting this morning in Hartford to brief legislators.
Sen. Robert J. Kane, R-Watertown, and Sen. Andrew W. Roraback, R-Goshen, are planning to attend.

Kane said he is worried that crime victims and other people who need help nights and weekends will not get as immediate attention and assistance as they do now.

“That is a scary premise. That is going to take away from public safety, and it is not something that I can support. I am very concerned,” he said.

Kane said he believes lawmakers can help.

“There are things we can do to bring attention to this matter and try to stop this from going through,” he said.

Critics also worry the state eventually will close the two barracks and move troopers somewhere else, increasing response times to emergencies in western Connecticut.

“That has not at all been the intent of this project,” Vance said.