Hopkins One of Few Minnesota Cities Still Using Its Own Dispatch Center
Only 10 out of 854 Minnesota cities have their own dispatch centers for emergency calls.
As governments everywhere look to become ever more efficient, in at least one area of service, Hopkins is choosing to prepare better for emergencies rather than make cuts.
The city remains just one of 10 throughout Minnesota to run its own independent dispatch center. Despite a price tag of nearly $475,000 in 2010, Hopkins continues to operate an independent dispatch center with good reason, said Sgt. Michael Glassberg of the Hopkins Police Department. Having the dispatch center specifically for Hopkins and, with that, a dedicated channel for calls from Hopkins residents, speeds up the process from the initial call to getting an officer on scene.
"As a cop, there's no way I'd ever want to see us go away from it," Glassberg said.
All but two of the cities operating their own dispatches are in Hennepin County. The remaining 844 cities are part of larger clusters of dispatch centers, typically run by counties. With larger dispatch centers, there are sometimes delays in 911 calls as they get routed to dispatchers, Glassberg said. That's not the case when the calls are answered locally. It also helps to have someone on the other end of the distress call who knows the area well–and sometimes knows the caller, as well.
Jackie Mines, the division director of emergency communication networks at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said more and more cities in recent years have given up their independent dispatch centers because of rising costs and shrinking budgets. Cities holding on to them are probably doing so for specific reasons, she said.
"The safety of the citizens is important," Mines said. "You can't just look at the dollars."
In 2004, Hopkins reinvested in its dispatch center. The Police Department upgraded its technology and built a new building, costing the city several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hopkins has six dispatch center employees. The costs creep up each year, Glassberg said.
"We have [only] what we need," he said. "We've been fortunate enough to keep [an independent dispatch center] over the years."
But costs go both ways.
Should two or more agencies want to combine dispatches, they may need to build a new dispatch center and outfit it with the latest equipment, Mines said. Then there's everything that goes along with new staffing–salaries, benefits, union negotiations and the planning and execution to create a workable system among two or more combined dispatches.
"All those are expenses that people don't think about," she said. "It takes a lot of planning."
For now, Glassberg is happy with Hopkins' declaration of independence.
WHO HAS INDEPENDENT DISPATCH CENTERS?
- Eden Prairie
- St. Louis Park
- White Bear Lake