MOUNT VERNON — Reports of a dispute between Sheriff David Barber and 9-1-1 Director Richard Dzik, involving the use of female dispatchers to frisk incoming female inmates are apparently overblown. Both say there is no dispute.
The issue came up at a recent 9-1-1 board meeting during a discussion about the progress of cross-training dispatchers to work at either communication center. Female dispatchers at the county call center at the sheriff’s office have traditionally filled in to search female prisoners being brought in when no female deputies or jail staff members are available.
“The possibility of searching a prisoner wasn’t in dispute, it’s part of their duties,” said Sheriff David Barber.
Training involves instruction in procedures as well as basic self-defense.
The question grew out of the process of cross-training the staff at the city and county call centers to work at either center. The duties and procedures are slightly different at each center, as is the equipment.
Dzik said the situation was discussed with the police dispatchers’ union at a labor-management meeting.
“Concerns the union had were addressed and the union was willing for the dispatchers to go through the training,” Dzik said.
It helped that this is not a constant duty.
“It seldom happens that we have to pull a dispatcher,” Barber said. “We will put a staff member in dispatch to handle routine calls so the remaining dispatcher can handle 9-1-1 calls.”
Dzik said the board discussed whether searches would continue to be a service provided by dispatchers and it was decided that it would be as long as a call center is housed at the sheriff’s office.
“There really isn’t a good option as apparently there are serious civil rights issues involved,” Dzik said.
The 9-1-1 board is looking down to road at the possibility of consolidating the call centers into one operation. Cross-training so that dispatchers can work at either center works toward that goal, he said.
It also saves money as staffing at the two centers can be done with fewer people if they can work either center.
“We have to be as cost effective as possible,” Dzik said.