Grand jury dispatch proposal unanimously rejected



San Luis Obispo County vouched to keep emergency responses separate when five of its cities, the Sheriff's Department, and the Board of Supervisors rejected grand jury recommendations for a collaborative dispatch center.

The follow-up to a 2019-20 grand jury report called "Joint Agency Dispatch: Better Together?" noted several local agencies and officials unanimously shrugged off four recommendations.

"We are surprised in some respects because there's potential for [financial] savings for several cities, [even though] it would cost money for other cities. But you can never tell what people are going to do," George Tracy, the San Luis Obispo County Civil Grand Jury foreperson said.

HELPING HAND The Pismo Beach Communications Center offered overnight dispatch support to its Grover Beach counterpart when the latter experienced staff shortages. - FILE PHOTO BY KASEY BUBNASH
  • File Photo By Kasey Bubnash
  • HELPING HAND The Pismo Beach Communications Center offered overnight dispatch support to its Grover Beach counterpart when the latter experienced staff shortages.

The joint dispatch center as envisioned by the grand jury would be a union between the SLO County Sheriff's Office and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). The continuity report mentioned that even though Cal Fire assists with 911 services for cities like Pismo Beach and Grover Beach, and the county sheriff helps out with law enforcement dispatch to Arroyo Grande and Morro Bay through contracts, the pay scale difference between agencies made such a scheme disproportionately advantageous among the four cities. That's why the grand jury recommended a unified Sheriff-Cal Fire dispatch center.

It recommended Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Atascadero, Paso Robles and SLO city request a proposal from the county sheriff and Cal Fire to provide contracted dispatch services. All five cities individually rejected the suggestion.

Pismo Beach said it already has top-notch services that are backed by accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement (CALEA).

"We are mindful of cost but we also look at our service and safety history. We have the lowest workers compensation rate for a public safety agency in the city. We are doing something right in Pismo Beach," said Pismo Beach PIO Jorge Garcia.

Pismo Beach currently has its own emergency dispatch center managed by local employees. The beach city also provides dispatch services to Grover Beach.

Matthew Bronson, the city manager of Grover Beach, said that its communications center experienced staff shortage due to retirements, departures, and medical leaves. This prompted the Pismo Beach Communications Center to offer assistance with covering overnight shifts for Grover Beach from the CALEA-accredited Pismo Beach Police Department facility.

"After several months of service, the two police departments experienced greater communications between officers in the field from both departments," Bronson said. "This increased communication provided a safer working environment for the police officers in the field and in several instances a quicker response time when additional police resources were needed in either city."

Three other recommendations pertaining to the Sheriff's department and the Board of Supervisors also got rejected. They involved long-term pricing, reallocating space, and modifying contingency plans to accommodate the suggested joint dispatch center.

Tracy told New Times that there aren't any consequences to not accepting the jury's recommendations. He added that another continuity report would be released in January 2022 on a different subject that he isn't presently at liberty to reveal.

"The grand jury is not the agency that has any authority to make people do things in the county unless there's something they do that's not correct," Tracy said. Δ


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