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Merger praised as success

STAFF WRITER

BARSTOW • The Barstow Police Department consolidated its dispatch operations with the Barstow Fire Protection District last February. A year later, the project is being touted as a success by both departments.

Before the consolidation, Barstow PD employed six dispatchers. When the department took over the Fire Department's dispatch duties, four new dispatchers were hired to bring the total to 10.

With the four extra employees available, the Police Department is now able to have two dispatchers on duty 24 hours a day.

"Prior to taking over fire communications ... we only had one dispatcher on duty at a time," Police Services Supervisor Marilyn Maestas said at last week’s City Council meeting. "That dispatcher had to handle all the 911 calls, the land-line calls, the police officers. She had to do a lot, and with that second dispatcher it has alleviated a lot of that responsibility on her, and we're very grateful for that."

During a presentation at the council meeting, Maestas said the average dispatch time for the Fire Department has improved by 1 minute, 49 seconds since the merger.

"It has been a very successful merger, and because of the merger, the citizens of Barstow are provided with a higher level of public service," Chief of Police Albert Ramirez said. "The Fire Department's response times have been reduced, and communications between police and Fire Department personnel has strengthened dramatically."

The consolidated dispatch unit took 34,860 service calls in 2013, with 31,274 calls for the Police Department and 3,586 for the Fire Department. 

Prior to the merger, some emergency calls were outsourced to other San Bernardino County dispatch centers, including Rialto. The Feb. 3 presentation noted that another advantage of the merger is that it allows all of the city's emergency calls to be handled by dispatchers who are familiar with the Barstow area.


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