Outsourcing of Daly City’s police dispatch services disputed

Controversy surrounding a proposal to outsource Daly City’s police dispatch services came to a boil this week during a long, contentious city council meeting.

Under the San Mateo County proposal, Daly City would eliminate its police dispatch department, and the county’s communications center in Redwood City would answer the town’s 911 police calls. Positions for Daly City’s nine dispatchers would be eliminated, but they would likely be offered county jobs with better salaries and benefits.

The county claims the proposed arrangement would save Daly City almost $3 million over the first five years.

The dispatchers and their union oppose the proposal, claiming it would jeopardize public safety. All of the city’s rank-and-file police officers have signed a petition against the outsourcing.

During Monday’s council meeting, City Manager Pat Martel explained why she favors the county proposal. But the city manager’s presentation was repeatedly interrupted by the dispatchers’ union representative, Teamsters Local 856 Principal Officer Peter Finn.

Finn frequently voiced his disagreement with Martel’s claims, and an increasingly annoyed Mayor Sal Torres threatened to reduce Finn’s allotted speaking time if the interruptions continued.

Martel said the cost savings associated with the proposal are desperately needed, owing to Daly City’s budget deficit. To keep dispatch services in-house, Martel estimated the city would need to invest about $1 million in equipment upgrades over the next few years.

Consolidating 911 call centers has become a best practice for small towns that don’t want to shoulder the expenses, according to Martel. She cited numerous Peninsula cities that have already contracted with the county for their dispatch services, including East Palo Alto, Millbrae and San Carlos.

Addressing safety concerns, Martel said the county already answers Daly City’s medical and fire emergency calls, and has done so for about 20 years without incident.

In the San Francisco Examiner’s previous coverage of this issue, Daly City Police Officers Association President Jason Moe said the town’s dispatchers and cops have various shorthand phrases they use with each other, which dispatchers in the Redwood City call center would not likely understand.

Addressing this claim, Martel noted that when San Carlos outsourced its dispatch services, the city provided training for county employees to familiarize the dispatchers with the shorthand “callouts” specific to that town.

One of the topics Finn heckled Martel about Monday night — and revisited during his allotted speaking time — is a report by 911 communications expert Daryl Jones, who was hired by the Daly City Police Department to provide an unbiased analysis of the county proposal.

Finn claimed Martel delayed releasing the analysis until Feb. 18, because the report said the county proposal would not yield the savings it promised.

“What are you hiding?” Finn asked Martel.

Jones’ report originally said Daly City’s five-year cost under the county proposal would be $10.2 million, but that figure was later adjusted to $9.6 million. If the city keeps its current arrangement, its five-year cost will be about $9.3 million, according to Jones.

Martel claims Jones’ report is deeply flawed, because he failed to consider certain costs and made incorrect assumptions about the city’s needs.

“If we haven’t paid him, I would argue he’s going to give us a discount,” Martel said.

Jones said he stands by his work. “I believe the analysis is thorough and accurate,” he said.

The city council may vote on the proposal during its April 25 meeting, but will first discuss the matter in a public study session that has not been scheduled.

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