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New agreement could speed police responses

Proposal would allow dispatchers to send officers across jurisdictions

A squad car patrols Shorewood in this 2009 photo. A new agreement circulating among North Shore communities allows dispatchers to send officers across jurisdictional lines.

A squad car patrols Shorewood in this 2009 photo. A new agreement circulating among North Shore communities allows dispatchers to send officers across jurisdictional lines. Photo By NOW Photo by C.T. Kruger

Nov. 7, 2013

A proposed mutual aid agreement would allow police dispatchers at the consolidated Bayside Communications Center to send the nearest officer to emergency scenes, regardless of which community employs the officer.

The agreement was approved by the Whitefish Bay Village Board on Monday, and will need to be approved in Bayside, Brown Deer, Fox Point, Glendale, River Hills and Shorewood before taking effect.

In emergency situations, the Bayside dispatchers, who are always tracking the location of each department's squad cars, have the authority to send police officers across jurisdictional lines in order to reduce response times. The concept of the agreement was born last year out of the potential for the consolidated dispatch center to quicken emergency responses, Whitefish Bay Village Manager Patrick DeGrave said, and after a lot of wordsmithing by municipal attorneys is ready for approval.

'They're going to help'

"It's the closest car, regardless of the patch on their shoulder, DeGrave said. "...It's really to service the communities the best we can, which is to get the nearest person with training there as quick as we can."

For example, a Fox Point police officer could be sent to an emergency in Whitefish Bay if he or she is closer than an officer from Bay itself. However, once the Bay officer arrives the Fox Point officer would be expected to hand over the scene unless the nature of the emergency required both officers.

In any emergency the police chief of the responding community has the authority to override the Bayside dispatchers and deny the request, most likely if there is a second emergency in the officers' home jurisdiction.

"What we're trying to do on paper is what police officers do anyway," DeGrave said, commenting on the tendency of officers to respond to nearby situations regardless of jurisdiction. "They're going to help. They want to help. It's what they do."

Bills won't be sent

While the agreement does include language which would allow the communities to bill one another for the use of their officers, DeGrave said the understanding has been and will be that the communities do not actually invoke the language and send bills.

Rather, the reimbursement language is in the agreement in case an emergency occurs on such a scale that the Federal Emergency Mangement Agency becomes involved. The reimbursement terms are necessary for any requests for FEMA funding to be approved, DeGrave said.

"No community has ever charged another community for helping," DeGrave said. "In order to get the FEMA reimbursement, if it ever comes to that, the wording is required."

Shorewood Village Manager Chris Swartz agreed, in a separate interview, that the understanding between communities is that they will not charge each other for the emergency police services.

Nevertheless, the billing language does serve as an important safeguard against abuse of the arrangement, noted DeGrave.

"It prevents a community from intentionally under-staffing its department so that another department, who always staffs appropriately, can always come in to help. While I wouldn't accuse anyone in the North Shore of intending to do that, I have worked in a jurisdiction which intentionally did that....If there is a schedule in which you can invoke costs, you can avoid that problem."

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