Police dispatch going long distance

Memorandum of understanding with RCMP to provide 911 services on hold after announcement dispatch centre will move out of Nanaimo.

The city will reconsider its 911 contract with the RCMP after the police force announced dispatch will no longer be based out of Nanaimo.

The RCMP announced plans Friday to close its Nanaimo operational communications centre and consolidate operations in Courtenay this November.

The decision isn’t expected to change service levels to the public or police, but will affect 21 employees and stall 911 contract negotiations between the RCMP and Central Island 911 Partnership as officials consider whether they want calls answered at the north Island centre.

“It’s a different complexion now … than what we were looking at two weeks ago,” said Mike Dietrich, the city’s manager of police support services, who was shocked by the RCMP’s recent announcement.

“[What] we were talking about before was to have the RCMP manage our 911 function from Nanaimo, now they are not going to be here.”

According to Lois Karr, manager of operational communication centres of the division, the RCMP has been looking at integration of its operational communication centres for the last two decades, understanding they are “way more productive” when combined. It ensures there’s not a duplication of technology and administration and there are cost savings, she said, adding unlike Nanaimo, Courtenay had the technology and the room for expansion.

Karr said 21 full-time employees have been offered transfers.

The integrated centre was not part of previous 911 discussions with the partnership, and calls will be answered from Courtenay if the Central Island 911 Partnership – made up of the City of Nanaimo, Cowichan Valley Regional District and Nanaimo Regional District – chooses to stay on with the RCMP.

It will also mean new staffing costs, says Dietrich, who says the RCMP currently manages city employees out of its local operational communication centre but the city wouldn’t send its staff north.

“What we have to study now as a partnership is do we continue to do it ourselves, or do we hire a third party to do it and the RCMP might be that third party … or someone else that’s out there,” he said, adding one option could be for Nanaimo fire dispatch to handle calls.

The last time Nanaimo city council looked at options was more than a year ago when the RCMP served notice it would no longer manage 911 call-answer services without a contract and management fee.

Politicians considered a cheaper alternative through Vancouver-based E-Comm, which would have cost Nanaimo $126,000, but opted to remain with the police force, with some expressing concern about loss of geographic knowledge and outsourcing of CUPE positions. Nanaimo would pay 45 per cent of the $745,000 RCMP contract.

A consultant will now be hired to come up with options for the partnership.

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