HUDSON -- City Council June 6 met with the safety forces to prepare for the 2018 budget and learn what some of the needs of the police department will be next year and in the future.
The federal government is pushing the Next Generation 911, an internet protocol-based system that allows digital information such as voice, photos, videos, text messages, to flow seamlessly from the public through the 911 network, and on to emergency responders.
Chief David Robbins said dispatch in the Hudson police department remains local but is under "threat" by the state of Ohio, which is pushing to consolidate dispatch centers and upgrade systems.
In December 2016, City Manager Jane Howington said the city had been working with Council and other communities to look at the possibilities of joining with other area dispatch operations but would wait six months to examine best practices, technology and what other communities were doing.
The dispatchers in Hudson, represented by Hudson Public Safety Dispatcher Krista Roch, who spoke to Council Nov. 15, 2016, said they take pride in providing a level of service to Hudson customers that exceeds neighboring communities because of specialized knowledge of Hudson.
They would not remain employees of the city of Hudson if a regional dispatch center was created and Hudson joined it.
On June 9, Summit County and the cities of Cuyahoga Falls, Stow and Tallmadge entered into a memorandum of understanding regarding the consolidation of public safety dispatch operations.
Hudson was invited to join in to the discussion last year, but chose to wait, as there were was a timeline for committing to the first level of discussions, and not enough time for Hudson city officials to discuss the project and its effects, said Communications Manager Jody Roberts. The city is looking at options.
"We like our dispatch center offering, and are primarily looking at ways to keep it here," Roberts said. "The state recently received its first proposals for a statewide Next Generation 911 vendor, but hasn't yet decided which one it will choose; that leaves all other dispatch centers having to wait, or guess at equipment and software that would be compliant."
If Hudson joined the new center with Stow, Cuyahoga Falls, Tallmadge and Summit County, it would mean that Hudson's dispatch would be gone, Roberts said. Council and city officials would like to retain the Hudson dispatch if possible.
Hudson is considering the possibility of a Virtual 911 dispatch center with other police departments and is talking to other departments, Robbins said.
Virtual 911 links smaller dispatch centers together to provide for manpower shortages by rolling a 911 call over to another dispatch center when one is too busy to handle it, Roberts said.
"It is basically creating a dispatch personnel multiplier with other centers who may be similarly smaller staffed," Roberts said. "It already occurs today, so if our 911 call lines are busy, they ring up in Twinsburg, and vice versa. Virtual 911 would work like that only on a smaller scale."
Hudson could maintain its dispatch center with dispatchers who know the community better, Roberts said. It allows help when Hudson dispatchers are affected by a resignation, retirement or other reason. Memorandums of understanding would be created between dispatch center, she said.
Hudson police would still need to acquire NG911 hardware and software, but the May 2018 date for compliance for a Public-Safety Answering Point or emergency call center may be extended, Roberts said.
Many of the challenges to the police department are related to technology and require new training or rules. Electric cars may have battery leaks and require cleanup by the fire department. Door locks are more complicated as well.
If officers wear body cameras, the city needs to determine the guidelines for what video data and how much is stored to comply with sunshine laws, he said.
More crimes involve computer and identification fraud, Robbins said. Hudson police can fill out a report to document the crime for banks or insurance but can't investigate the crime, which can occur anywhere in the world.
Half of the officers have trained to handle mental health calls, which need to be dealt with differently to deescalate the situation, Robbins said.
Police require additional equipment to meet health crisis such as Automated External Defibrillators for victims of a heart attack or Nasal Narcum for opiod overdoses, Robbins said.
The police department may evaluate tasers as part of their equipment, Robbins said. The ongoing changes will affect the budget discussed in the fall.
Hudson has an experienced staff with 29 officers, the same since 2005. Although six officers are on during the day and five at night in three zones, when officers are on vacation, sick or not available, the number of cruisers can be as low as three, the minimum for the city.
But if the police department adds officers, it will add to the city staff number, which Council has tried to maintain at the same number.
The city has 153 full-time employees and tried to keep the number between 150 to 153, according to Roberts.
"There is no official staffing level cap, but even as we add initiatives and responsibilities, we always try to keep our staff levels down through normal attrition and cross training of staff." Roberts said.