In May, a consultant’s report commissioned by Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll blasted Stanislaus Regional 911, claiming the emergency dispatch service has ineffective leadership, a demoralized workforce and out-of-control employee costs.
Now, the joint powers authority that runs the dispatch center – including Stanislaus County and Modesto – will hire a consultant to prepare an “unbiased, objective” review of the regional agency.
Stan Risen, county chief executive officer, said he hopes the study will address the concerns of the Modesto Police Department, which could opt to leave the partnership in 2019.
“We want to turn (the agency) into a finely tuned machine,” Risen said. “It is critical for our public safety services.”
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Risen previously said the first report by Jackman Associates of Long Beach was biased, inflammatory and not well acquainted with the facts. The county CEO and Interim City Manager Jim Holgersson asked the Stanislaus Regional commission last month for the joint powers authority to pay for the new study at a cost not to exceed $50,000.
Four consulting firms responded to a “request for information” before a July 25 deadline. Holgersson and Risen interviewed the firms and narrowed the field this week but were still discussing details with one of them.
The request called for a fair and objective review of service levels, organizational structure, staffing, dispatch procedures, recruitment, training, and employee salaries and benefits. The experts will analyze the governance and management structure of the dispatch center, as well as recommend ways to improve accountability and effectiveness.
The consultant also will look at the capabilities of the center’s radio equipment and computer technology, any issues that may hinder operational effectiveness, and the method of apportioning costs to member agencies in Stanislaus Regional 911. The agency handles dispatching for Modesto police, the Sheriff’s Department, and 20 other law enforcement and fire departments.
Risen said the commission wants to make sure the salaries for Stanislaus Regional dispatchers are where they should be. The Jackman report found that Stanislaus Regional dispatchers can earn $10,000 annually more than their counterparts in Yolo and Santa Cruz counties, which are similar in size.
Jackman noted that Stanislaus Regional’s budget in 2012-13 was $7.2 million, compared with Yolo’s $5 million budget and Santa Cruz’s $5.6 million. Modesto was responsible for about 53 percent of the cost, or $3.8 million, in 2012-13. Jackman advised Modesto to explore whether other alternatives would cost less, such as running its own dispatch service or working with other cities.
Holgersson said the Jackman study did not answer all of the questions. “It certainly indicated there could be some issues with the regional 911 service,” he said. “This (study) will focus on what is needed to improve the operation.”
He expects the consultant will talk with employees and others who are closely involved with dispatch services. It should take four months to complete the review.
Holgersson said the city wants to make the joint powers operation work effectively. “If we can’t accomplish that, then certainly we will look at alternatives. There is no reason to believe we can’t improve the operation and make it one of the better-run dispatch centers in the area,” he said.
To justify the cost for a second report, the request for consultants asked the firms to provide the names of previous clients and describe how their services saved time or money for those agencies.
The commission searched for consultants with experience in reviewing public safety operations. Those firms usually have retired police chiefs or fire officials working for them, Risen said.