City eyes upgraded 911 dispatch

·2 min read

Sep. 14—In Attorney General Letitia James' March 2021 report regarding the death of Troy Hodge in the City of Lockport, she recommended that the Lockport Police Department discontinue its 911 call center and allow Niagara County to take over dispatching responsibilities.

This suggestion was based on the determination that having two 911 systems at work in the City of Lockport hindered the emergency medical response to where Hodge died.

However, according to Mayor Michelle Roman, her negotiations with the police department have shown that there is no momentum to dissolve the city's dispatch and place the 911 calls in the county's hands, but that an upgrade to the city's dispatch capabilities, including being able to take calls from cell phones, is being discussed.

"In 2019, when it was under interim Chief (Steven) Priesch, he recommended upgrading our current system with a Motorola system so we would be totally updated with our abilities with 911," Roman said. "The council at the time didn't want to do that."

Roman said that the AG's report focused on several issues — including the cell phone issue — but that the upgrades to a Motorola system would solve the problems seen therein.

"If we do the upgrades and we've also improved our communication with the sheriff's on their protocols and our protocols," she said. "then we've addressed all of the concerns that were presented in the AG's report."

Roman also noted that the contract with Motorola lasts for five years and that would give ample opportunity to continue to negotiate with the police department as to whether dispatch should be handled solely by the county.

"If it's even necessary," she added.

The 911 committee that recommended the upgrade, said Roman, noted that moving dispatch to the county would cost the county $500,000 to $600,000 annually, a 23% increase in the Niagara County Sheriff's Office budget overall.

"For the city, it would cost us almost the same amount to upgrade our system to match their system," she said.

Roman noted that an additional cost of another $400,000 could also be incurred to transfer data from the city to the sheriff's office. A yearly fee of $100,000 would also have to be paid to store the data, she said.

In contrast, the upgrade would cost $275,000, Roman said, and would give the Lockport police the ability to see cell phone texts, as well as video.

The resolution, sponsored by Third Ward Alderman Mark Devine, will be voted on at the next Common Council meeting on Wednesday.

Devine would not comment on the proposed resolution.

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