Red Deer City council opted not to pursue combining dispatch services for police and emergency services at its Feb. 21st meeting.
Councillor Lynne Mulder was one of those in favour of the current system, where RCMP is dispatched through the Southern Alberta Operational Communications Centre and the City runs its own dispatch service for fire and ambulance.
To her, the costs and benefits of consolidating the two were not clear.
“I don’t think the data was there on one side or the other,” Mulder said.
She’s open to the idea in the future, once the City establishes its new protective services division.
“The fact that we’re moving into a new protective services division is the perfect opportunity to explore that along with any other synergies we might be able to make with emergency services,” Mulder said.
The RCMP’s Supt. Ken Foster was at the meeting and was asked to lay out the pros and cons of consolidating dispatch.
Local dispatchers are familiar with the community they serve, hold intimate knowledge of the area, know people, streets and addresses, Foster said.
As for the cons, it’s mostly the cost, he said.
He named St. Albert as one community that provides its own dispatch for police only, within the detachment, paying for it and using municipal employees, adding that Northern Alberta OCC is used for back-up.
He added however, police, fire and ambulance are not dispatched together in St. Albert. Fire and ambulance are dispatched separately from police, and from a different location.
That model comes at a “significant cost,” Foster said.
As well, he said the training standards are not as high or consistent as they are with the RCMP, which are applied across the country.
To Councillor Buck Buchanan, the pros outweighed the cons.
“To me, if it’s the difference between the cost versus the service, then I’m landing on the side of the service,” Buchanan said.
All service, police, fire or ambulance, is provided through dispatch, he said.
“As long as St. Albert is doing it, as long as Sherwood Park is doing it, they’re like-sized cities. If they can do it, I’m pretty darn sure Red Deer can,” he said.
Council heard that in 2015, the City of Red Deer started taking non-emergency calls in-house. That reduced the burden on the OCC by diverting 49% of calls to the RCMP to the appropriate responders.
“That was a really big step and we increased funding last budget so they could keep it open until 10 p.m. So it was better service for the community,” Mulder said.