Police and fire departments should supervise Lexington's 911, report says

jkegley@herald-leader.comMay 20, 2011 

Lexington's 911 emergency call centers should be put back under the direct supervision of the police and fire departments, officials said Thursday.

The recommendation came after a lengthy management assessment of the Division of Enhanced 911 by Glenn Brown, a former jail director and special adviser to Mayor Jim Gray. Brown found an unstructured management and low employee morale.

Emergency dispatchers and call-takers have not been under the supervision of police and fire since 2004, when 911 was changed into a stand-alone division under the supervision of Director David Lucas.

Councilwoman Diane Lawless, who is on the council's Public Safety and Public Works Committee, said she has been concerned that E911 wasn't being managed effectively for more than a year, which troubled her because call-takers and dispatchers are "the real first responders," notified of problems before even police and firefighters.

In February, Gray assigned Brown to assess the 911 call center and Assistant Police Chief David Boggs to assess the Fayette County Detention Center. The investigations were intended to address "perpetual problems" at both divisions, Gray said.

Both investigations have since quietly been completed. Public Safety Commissioner Clay Mason said Thursday that the recommendation to decentralize management at E911 was made to a city council work session last week. Recommendations regarding the jail will be made next week, he said.

Brown conducted the E911 review by issuing questionnaires that workers could answer anonymously. He also interviewed current and former staff members, rode with police and firefighters to hear "the other side" of their interactions with dispatchers, and made unannounced visits to call centers to see the staff in action, he said.

The investigation determined there was "little to no involvement" by management in day-to-day operations, which contributed to low employee morale.

Other morale problems were caused by excessive mandatory overtime, managers' mishandling of personnel problems and minimal training "regarding stress and unique working environment," the document said.

In general, employees had "a lack of respect for current management (and) leadership," the report said.

It wasn't immediately clear how the restructuring would take place, but Brown and Mason said they were hopeful it could be accomplished by the start of Fiscal Year 2012, which begins July 1.

Brown and Mason said the city council would need to vote on the issue, but Lawless said she wasn't sure it had to appear before the council.

Brown said the decentralizing of E911 could be presented to the council as part of a "larger city reorganization" that is under way. The details of the larger restructuring have not been made public, he said.

It's unclear what effect the proposed reorganization of E911 would have on Director David Lucas, who could not be reached for comment.

Lawless said she didn't think there would be a need for a director of E911 if supervision was handled by police and fire personnel.

Brown said it was too early to tell whether the restructuring would mean any jobs would be lost.

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