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Old 01-23-2013, 4:42 AM
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Default Lawrence becomes first in NJ to privatize 911 dispatching services

LAWRENCE - With a 4-0 vote tonight, Lawrence became the first town in New Jersey to privatize its 911 police dispatching services, a move township officials said would save up to $1.1 million over five years and enhance public safety.

Lawrence becomes first in NJ to privatize 911 dispatching services
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Old 01-23-2013, 10:18 AM
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I honestly don't know how I feel about this. While I understand the municipality is trying to save money, a commercial, for profit, outfit is going to do what they can to keep costs down, and that also includes the possibility of them taking calculated risk that could potentially put the residents at risk.
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Old 01-23-2013, 7:17 PM
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1.1 million over five years ? Seriously ? Sounds like a grave mistake to just save 1.1 million over a 5 year period.

In most budget cycles, 1.1 million isn't all that much.
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Old 01-23-2013, 7:46 PM
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Bad choice!

It will backfire. Usually departments benefit from having dispatcher essential hired as some sort of "officer". They develop good relationships with officers and it pays off during their work. A private company will have a huge staff turnover and that's not good for such a strategic position.

I give it a year or two until some residents start calling their councilmen and saying that 911 operators don't know what they are doing.

Outsource cleaning ladies, car maintenance and even records keeping.
Leave strategic positions gov. owned. 911 center is not supposed to make profit, it's supposed to run the city's responders.
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Old 01-24-2013, 2:01 AM
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In Fresno County (Ca.) Fresno and Clovis Fire Departments are dispatched by American Ambulance, as a cost saving measure. So far it has worked out. It is not without it's problems though. Once you call 9-1-1 they ask what type of emergency you have and either take the call if it is Law Enforcement or the must transfer you to EMS/Fire dispatch for fire and EMS emergencies. The thought process was that fire and EMS should be together to reduce the response times. Critical services should not be out sourced as this puts profits above public safety and leave little recourse for complaints for poor service. The savings of about $250,000 a year are not worth the liability the city will be taking on.

Edit
What type of background investigation will iXP put it's employee's through? These people will have access to birth dates, driver license data, social security numbers and criminal histories of every citizen in New Jersey. What is to keep them from selling or giving this information to others. Then there is the officer safety aspect. The bottom line is this is not just a bad idea it is a terrible idea.

Last edited by GrumpyGuard; 01-24-2013 at 2:08 AM.. Reason: additional thoughts
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Old 01-24-2013, 2:07 AM
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Consolidated Fire/PD/911 centers are always the answer when it comes to operational efficiency.

Even if Police officers and Firefighters won't coordinate directly with each other so often (either because of a habit or explicit policy) if you got bunch a people in a single room who handle everything they will work 100x more efficiently than if they would have to call for every mundane detail.
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Old 01-24-2013, 8:01 AM
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I didn't read the article, but having experience there...

Either way your hiring people off the street and training them. Its going to come down to the training program and the salary that they pay. In some areas dispatchers make good money - but there is a ton of stress, forced overtime and the like that compensation makes up for.

My guess is that the savings will come from pension and health benefits more than anything else.

As for the California statement above, state law actually requires that law enforcement answers the inital 911 call. If its fire/EMS related and that answering PD does not do fire/EMS dispatching, then the call is transferred to the agency that would handle such calls.

Background checks would still be handled by the police department to comply with NCIC and state standards for those who need to access information. For the most part in most states, SSN numbers will only show up on criminal histories and not with drivers licenses (most state DMV's have gotten away from attaching SSN's to DL information).
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Old 01-24-2013, 11:33 AM
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My guess is that the savings will come from pension and health benefits more than anything else.
Yup, sounds like it all comes down to staffing. This is a way for the town to skirt the unions, save on personnel & HR costs, save on some training costs (and associated OT), and still maintain some semblance of dispatching. Then the savings can supposedly be passed along to increase the number of officers they hire. Win-win in the town council's eyes.

Who knows, maybe this will be the wave of the future. Or at least a way to pressure unions at the negotiating table.
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Old 01-24-2013, 11:58 AM
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I read the article and am familiar with iXP (derived from the consulting group having 9 founding partners) assuming administration for a few communications centers. If you look at the funding, the per capita breakdown per employee comes down to just under $80k, but that fails to take into account operation and administration costs - the return on investment to iXP, and any other charges that Lawrence may have included in their spec. Wish I could find that. Things like, does iXP have to rent the facility (seems there was a debacle in Northampton County, PA at Blue Mountain Control years ago with this kind of privatization), do they pay for the costs of maintenance and monthly recurrings for connectivity and E9-1-1? Stuff like that whittles down the salary pretty quickly. I do expect there to be conscientious people who work there, at least initially, but the thing to look at in this environment is retention rate. Are the employees hired provided with what it takes to retain them. Superficially, that might seem like "we pay you enough to stick around," but it also includes intangibles like adequate training, a support mechanism for various emergencies (EAP, CISM program, etc.), having good medical benefits, having the ability to maintain dialogue with... someone... both in the corporate strata and in the served organization, and so forth. The sign of a sinking ship is when everyone starts bailing. Then the integrity of the organization is going to be difficult to shore up.

My other concern with privatization is one of accountability to the public. A for-profit entity has one goal, and one goal only: profitability to its shareholders. In this case, is the venture creating recurring revenue for the partners? A municipal, county, state, or special district entity is responsible to the taxpayers through its board of governance. Have a problem? Go to the mayor, a councilman, or a board of directors member. In a private entity, problems might be dealt with as a matter of detente rather than mutual cooperation, and every decision will be weighted against impact to the bottom line. That latter thought has been encroaching into the public sector, too, but the thought that a taxpayer has immediate access to his or her elected officials - and can exercise the right to remove them with their vote - is more appealing than suing iXP and the Township to compel change if it were needed.

But, ehhh, what do I know?

Last edited by 902; 01-24-2013 at 12:00 PM.. Reason: Made a point in my rambling a little clearer...
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Old 01-25-2013, 8:11 AM
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\My other concern with privatization is one of accountability to the public. A for-profit entity has one goal, and one goal only: profitability...
The great thing about privatization is that if they don't live up to the wants and needs of the community that they're serving, they can be canned and replaced. When public agencies do the same, nothing happens because they're the only game in town. A private agency's profitability is directly related to their performance. If they don't perform, they lose their contract and thus their revenue stream. Profitability incentivizes keeping costs low; so long as their cost-cutting doesn't interfere with their contract, then all is well.

Simultaneously, privatization introduces competition. Competition will keep costs low, provided the costs are at a minimum covered. Everything has a cost and if another agency can come in and do the same thing (i.e. the wants & needs of the community) that the current agency is for less, then by all means save the money and go with the new guys!

Accountability in the public sector is great in theory, but there are seldom times I have seen it. Everywhere I go, all I hear is complaining about specific inefficiencies (mainly from the Fire / EMS standpoint - high response times, poor performance, etc). As long as there is a contract specifying the minimums that the community wants and a private agency can do that, I can't see a downside here.

In the end, to each their own. I am by no means bashing public sector workers, so don't even try to turn that to me. Everyone views what is "good" differently. The best we can do is try to not let personal feelings or bias get in the way of what the evidence shows. I, personally, would love to see how privatization turns out.
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Old 01-25-2013, 10:10 AM
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Quote:
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Everyone views what is "good" differently. The best we can do is try to not let personal feelings or bias get in the way of what the evidence shows. I, personally, would love to see how privatization turns out.
I respect your opinion. You're right. In a sterile environment, absent politics and pretense, private enterprise does foster competition. But I've seen that go the other way, too, especially if the move from the public to the private sector had an element of personal gain, reward, or reprisal (all of the above shouldn't be a surprise in politics, not just in Jersey). Let's hope things were done for the right reasons, the contract is well-researched and written, and that the people are served. I look forward to seeing how things unfold. 73!
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Old 01-25-2013, 10:37 AM
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Might be smart to require all dispatchers and their loved ones to live in the community.
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Old 01-25-2013, 4:37 PM
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I wonder how they get the cost savings?

Why do I get a vision of "Peggy" of USA Prime Credit from the Discover commercials
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Old 01-29-2013, 4:18 PM
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Yeah this isnt a good Idea. As someone who has worked for the largest 911 system in the world, privatizing a vital government service, where emergency responders lives are at stake besides that of the public , to private entities to save some money is ridiculous and can be deadly. Call takers and dispatchers are a vital portion of any 911 system. Not everyone can do this job. The liability that the township opens itself up to is unpredictable even for a small town. Time will tell. Many private companies have tried to get into Emergency Response Systems and the bottom line is that they realize very little profit, and eventually they leave. When they do, the cost of replacing them, with municipal employees becomes greater than any savings they might have had short term..
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Old 01-29-2013, 4:21 PM
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Let me ask you this. What's the difference between a municipal dispatcher and a private dispatcher? I can think of one right off the top if my head that you won't like but that's besides the point.
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Old 01-29-2013, 4:33 PM
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I can see the argument about how efficiency will be enforced by a contract but really can you "quantify" how a 911 center should work and put it in writing?

By that logic we should private police departments too, by that logic we should privatize everything...

Military isn't (excluding contractors) completely privatized because of strategic security. 911 centers are this same kind of strategic positions.
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Old 01-29-2013, 5:05 PM
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Let me ask you this. What's the difference between a municipal dispatcher and a private dispatcher? I can think of one right off the top if my head that you won't like but that's besides the point.
How many people remember the movie "Robocop"? Well in the movie a huge corporation was given control to run and manage the citys Police Department. The end result horrible management, poor work results and corporate greed, as well as corruption. That is what you get.

The difference between a Municipal employee and a private employee is here:
1. A municipal employee is tax-payer paid for and therefore guaranteed to be there.
2. A company sees their profits go, and they pull out. When they pull out, the city is left replacing vital services often at higher costs than had they run it to begin with.
3. While there still are volunteer EMS and Fire Services throughout the country the fact is that where those exists, people in those areas dont know if they can get someone when they call for help. Often Police officers are waiting for ambulances and fire trucks and people die..

So there is a difference, but you wont know until you are the first responder calling for help, or you are the person who needs help and are dealing with call takers or dispatcher who dont know what they are doing..

In NYC private hospitals that ran ambulances in the 911 system for the fire department have closed down in droves over the years due to reduced profits. The City has had to pick up the slack and a larger cost than had they simply employed people and maintained their staffing levels.

911, its not their lives, its your life that's at stake..

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Old 01-29-2013, 7:01 PM
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Well, I don't personally compare Robocop to real world situations, but ok...

In a private dispatching situation, the company - but more importantly the employee's are still held to the same state standards and certifications and responsibilities as a municipal employee and employer.

If John Doe applies at Anytown 911 and Anycompany 911, the same standards, background check, certifications and training will be the same. Most of these setups are management/performance contracts where the direct employee will retain their job if/when another company comes in.

As for private police, I worked for a county in which two of these existed. They are formed within what is called "community service districts". Basically, a developed subdivision covering a large area is empowered to provide police protection for the residents within that subdivsion. They dispatched their own police and provided their own police services. All officers are fully state sworn police officers. In fact, they were contracted to provide dispatching services to a neighboring city.

We never had a problem with them and provided excellent service. This takes place in California which its police standards, accrediation and training mandates far exceed that you see out east.

Now I don't see outsorcing police protection happening, but I could see a town disband the police force and have the state police and/or county sheriff take of responsibilty under contracts (which is quite common).

But in short, just because its a private company it does not mean substandard service. Your most likely going to have the same people answering the phones at the same place (unless they don't like the new pay/benefits).

I will say for good or bad - a private company will be able to let go a substandard employee much quicker than the same employee employed by the town. Its not universal, but thats generally the case.
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Old 01-30-2013, 12:30 PM
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In case anyone was wondering:

Telecommunicator (Fulltime/Part-time) at iXP Corporation in Lawrence Township, New Jersey | New Jersey Local Job Search with NJ.com
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Old 02-01-2013, 2:19 AM
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Might be smart to require all dispatchers and their loved ones to live in the community.
I work in the neighboring town. I obtained a copy of the bid via OPRAH. We are all afraid of losing our jobs to this for profit company who has no experience of running a dispatch center, that isn't brand new. The CEO states that the Lawrence Dispatchers are welcome to apply for the new positions they once held, and their salary would be comparable to what they are making now after the "sign-on bonus". Yet what happens the following year when there is no bonus? We see this as the initial step for a private takeover of all 9-1-1 centers in the area.

In fact they state in the bid "iXP Corporation also recognizes that this effort is an initial step toward establishing the center as a potential revenue source for Lawrence Twp by adding additional subscriber agencies. This will establish a model for other communities in Mercer County who are stuggling with budetary and staffing costs for their 9-1-1 operations."

In other words lets layoff all the employees who work holidays and get no Christmas bonus because they chose a career in Public Safety, who are expected to celebrate holidays with their own families on other days when their families aren't able to observe that day because they have to go back to work or school...because we don't have holidays...everyday is a work day. Lets take their pensions away and good insurance coverage, (that is our only "bonus") because we can pay a profit company to do it cheaper, cuz they will pay them half of what they are paid. Well let me tell you...the town I work in I make $60k and can't afford to live here. I'm required to live in the State, but if they come in and take over...I won't be able to keep living in Lawrence either.

The problem in Lawrence is they had 9 dispatcher positions budgeted but only 5 filled. They make the police sit the desk instead of filling the vacancies. They ran this platform of giving back 4000-6000 man hours of police not being on the road. There is an underlying theme here you can listen to the audio of great points the dispatchers made fighting for their jobs that fell on deaf ears of the council. I'm sure that someone had their hand in someone else's pocket ...

Audio clip 2 and 3.

Recommended 2013 Budget Presented to Council - Lawrenceville, NJ Patch
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