Mayor criticizes police phone tree

By Taylor MacPherson
March 20, 2017 - 2:00pm Updated: March 20, 2017 - 3:49pm

The Prince Albert Police Service has made recent changes to reduce the workload of its civilian staff, but one of the new policies has drawn criticism from Mayor Greg Dionne.

This morning the Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners heard a presentation from office manager Josie Hemsworth who runs the communication and record-keeping departments for the police service where staffing, employee retention and training costs have been a recent challenge.

Dionne said he recognizes the communication department's issues, but criticized their recent implementation of a phone tree which makes callers choose from a voice-prompted menu rather than a live operator directing their call.

“You’re in the emergency business,” Dionne said. “I want someone live to answer the phone.”

Dionne said the phone tree can be frustrating, and said he expects to see callers dialing 9-1-1 just to avoid the hassle.

Police Chief Troy Cooper said the phone tree was implemented earlier this month in an effort to reduce the workload of the department’s telecommunication staff, and is currently in a trial period. Cooper acknowledged an electronic menu can feel impersonal, but noted a large volume of the calls previously fielded by police operators are simple civilian inquiries rather than emergencies.

“We’ll do about a six-month trial on it,” Cooper told paNOW, “If it’s successful, if it actually reduces the workload on our communication operators and is still an efficient way to deliver services, we’ll keep it. If we find otherwise, we won’t.”

Cooper said the department tracks volumes of calls to both 9-1-1 and non-emergency lines, and will report on the phone tree’s success at reducing workloads in the call centre.

“I’m glad you track it, because it’ll be interesting to see,” Dionne said.

Bylaw patrols up

The board also heard a report on February’s bylaw activity from Bylaw Manager Suzanne Stubbs. Stubbs reported bylaw officers have been conducting daily foot patrols in the downtown core as well as weekly patrols in Little Red River Park.

“[Little Red Park] sometimes will see a little less professional presence because the police only will go there to respond to calls,” Cooper said. “Our community safety officers, our bylaw officers, can go there on proactive patrolling and so we’ve asked them to do that.”

In addition to their proactive patrols, February saw bylaw officers seize nine vehicles for unpaid parking violations and impound 22 at-large animals. There are currently 13 outstanding compliance orders for boarded homes in the city, Stubbs reported, six of which are proceeding to prosecution.


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