Officials in two of the three Cumberland County municipalities with police departments are divided on a proposal to consolidate police dispatching services for the entire county.
The Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Thursday awarded a $93,500 contract to V-COMM of Cranbury to study consolidating that service.
On Friday, Vineland Mayor Robert Romano said he’s willing to at least go along with the study to see what it finds and whether it can cut costs but not service.
“It’s a large cost to the city,” Romano said, adding that Vineland’s police department has 18 full-time dispatchers. “Maybe there’s something there. It’s worth looking into.”
Meanwhile, Millville Acting Police Chief Tom Haas came out strongly against the proposal. “It’s not a good idea,” he said.
Haas said his police dispatchers do a good job of filtering calls, reducing by about half the number of calls that actually require a response from a police officer. He also said the conversion to a countywide system could be too cost prohibitive.
Haas said individual departments would know their municipalities better than a countywide set up.
For instance, he said, some residents call in reports of shots being fired just to speed up police response time to a situation. Millville dispatchers have come to recognize those callers, and will send one car out instead of two or more, he said.
Bridgeton police Chief Mark Ott couldn’t be reached for comment.
Several New Jersey counties, such as Gloucester County, have a centralized dispatch operation. Officials there say the system is more cost-effective and efficient than operating individual dispatch operations.
Atlantic County has tried for years to create a central dispatch system. Officials there are winning over individual departments that wanted to retain control over that operation, primarily because of cost savings.
Cumberland County Public Safety Director James Matlock, who on Thursday urged the freeholders to pass the resolution awarding V-COMM the feasibility study contract, couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday regarding what kind of system the county wants to operate.
The resolution awarding the feasibility study contract lists no specifics regarding what work V-COMM is to perform.
Romano said the study could recommend that the county have its dispatch operations handled by Vineland’s police department. “It’s not just a one-way street,” he said.
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