Citing an unprecedented drop in calls received in 2018, the Hamptons Police Department is planning to adopt a new, voice message-based approach to dealing with incoming calls.
The decision follows an analysis of year-over-year emergency call volume to the Hamptons Police dispatch. “Last year, the volume of calls dropped dramatically,” Hamptons Police spokesman Larry Hirsch says. “We honestly had a bunch of people sitting around waiting for calls and practically nothing coming in, and we said ‘What are we paying these people for?’” Hirsch notes that the emergency dispatchers are paid full-time salaries plus benefits, and “mostly they just fart around on the internet.”
Seeing an opportunity to repurpose the money that would otherwise be paid to these dispatchers, Hamptons Police have invested in a voice-messaging system that will prompt the few callers who actually call in to leave a message with the department. “This isn’t like voicemail, so don’t freak out,” Hirsch says. “This is a system that records calls and, using sophisticated programming, determines how serious the situation is.” If the software determines that a situation is dire, Hirsch explains, then the system immediately alerts officers who may then follow up on the information. “On the other hand, if it’s a cat stuck in a tree, the system holds off on informing the officers until there’s a lull.”
By implementing the new messaging system and eliminating dispatchers, Hamptons Police will free up close to $200,000, which Hirsch says will go to satisfying outstanding needs within the department. “Right now, we’ve got a proposal out to upgrade the pool and spa facilities at our Montauk Police Recreational Center,” Hirsch says. “It would be nice to expedite that work to have a chance to reopen the pool before the middle of summer, and that’s going to require some ready cash.”
The dispatchers, for their part, have not been too outspoken in their complaints about the elimination of their positions, as some hope to be reassigned within the department. But they clearly disagree with the decision.
“This is the worst idea ever,” says one current dispatcher who expects to be let go after the new system is in place. He spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I mean, if you’re in any kind of emergency situation and you call in, and you get transferred to voicemail, you’re going straight into panic mode. I suspect that most of the voicemails received will be frightened people hyperventilating. This is a crazy, unworkable plan. It will be a
Hirsch dismissed the criticism, pointing out that the dispatchers naturally would rail against the loss of their “cushy” jobs.