The Hobart City Government is providing its Chief Constable with backup in their ongoing battle to secure the city with their own police dispatch channel and dispatcher.
Chief Constable Garret Ciszewski at Hobart City Council’s full meeting introduced a resolution saying the city should have its own dispatcher and channel. In April, Lake County E-911 Executive Director Mark Swiderski told police chiefs he intended to consolidate the channels, which means dispatchers and shared services will be able to hear who’s talking. in real time, Ciszewski told the board.
Currently, Hobart — like Crown Point and Merrillville — has its own channel but shares a dispatcher with neighboring New Chicago and City of Lake Station, Ciszewski said. With this setup, dispatchers answering multiple calls will hear one call on a headset and another on a speakerphone, dividing their attention as best they can.
Neither Hobart, Lake Station nor New Chicago think that’s optimal, according to Ciszewski.
“It is not what is best for our fellow citizens. We did that many years ago, and it wasn’t good then,” Ciszewski told the board. “It’s stressful for the dispatchers. (Lake County E-911) also has a rolling problem; if they have 125 positions to fill, they are currently at about 75, and as fast as they can train people, more dispatchers are leaving.
“If anything, any consolidation should come from administrative costs, not shipping.”
Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor asked Ciszewski if Swiderski or the E-911 board had the final say on the decision. An election for the new council has yet to take place, Ciszewski said; moreover, Swiderski is capable of making the decision himself, according to Lake County Commissioner Mike Repay.
“Can this work? In other areas, of course, but not here,” Ciszewski said, adding that he fully supports the dispatchers, who do their best under difficult conditions.
On Tuesday, Lake County Council agreed to strike an ad hoc committee to look into the matter, which will likely include Lake County Council members Charlie Brown, D-Gary; Dave Hamm, D-Hammond and Christine Cid, D-East Chicago.
If Swiderski proceeds with channel consolidation, Ciszewski told the board that the next step, per the E-911 agreement, would be to move to arbitration.
The board unanimously approved the resolution and asked Swiderski to come before the board and explain why he supports the consolidation.
Meanwhile, the Lake County Council is set to strike two committees at its regular July 5 meeting to investigate E-911 dispatcher assignments, but ultimately the county commissioners back Swiderski.
Michelle L. Quinn is a freelance writer for the Post-Tribune.