- Associated Press - Monday, April 21, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Better technology may be allowing the Nebraska State Patrol to save money by consolidating six centers down to three, but questions are being raised about whether dispatchers will know what they need to about each area of the state.

The first dispatch operation to close will be the Norfolk center in May, and the second project phase will be implemented by summer 2015. A committee will determine which center will close next. The consolidation is expected to save $750,000.

Sheriffs in two northeast Nebraska counties have already raised concerns about the consolidation, which, for example, will let a dispatcher in Lincoln send a trooper in Norfolk to a call in Wayne.

“We can dispatch from and to anywhere in the state,” the patrol superintendent, Col. David Sankey, told the Lincoln Journal Star.


The patrol intends to maintain three centers, instead of just one, to ensure flexibility and to provide for backup in the event of a natural disaster or some other issue.

But Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger is concerned that dispatchers elsewhere won’t know northeast Nebraska.

“Obviously, they can look at a map, but it doesn’t give them the same knowledge as somebody who lives and works in this area. And that can cause some concern for an immediate emergency response,” Unger told the Norfolk Daily News.

Pierce County Sheriff Rick Eberhardt shares Unger’s reservations about the dispatchers elsewhere who will be new to northeast Nebraska.

“It will be difficult for them, too, when they don’t have any idea what the geography looks like, how the towns are set up, who talk to on the fire and rescue squads,” Eberhardt told the Daily News.

Sankey said more than half of the shifts out of the Norfolk-based Troop B area are already being dispatched out of Lincoln, part of the consolidation process that began in January.

While there might be some growing pains during the transition, Sankey said, he doesn’t foresee any significant problems.

“We have a mobile computer-aided dispatch system that we use that helps dispatch personnel; our troopers have GPS units in their cars. We don’t think that’s going to be a significant concern,” Sankey said.

“Public safety and our officers’ safety is always a top priority for us,” he said. “And we think that moving forward with this consolidation, if we had any reservations at all, we wouldn’t be moving forward with this.”