Cinnaminson votes to cut police dispatchers

May 28, 2008 9:53:48 PM PDT
Despite loud opposition from taxpayers, township officials voted late Wednesday night to cut the jobs of police dispatchers in favor of a county system. A meeting at Cinnaminson High School Wednesday night stretched more than four hours. Last month officials voted preliminarily to let Burlington County take over all emergency calls. The township says it will save money. Opponents say emergency response times will suffer.

At one point in the meeting, one angry opponent of the plan charged to the microphone. At other times many in the crowd of hundreds stood up to voice their frustration.

Most in the crowd support the police dispatchers, who are part of the police union. They don't want the county to handle their emergency calls.

"The thought of the calls having to go to a central office and be screened and then sent over to the Cinnaminson dispatcher...a matter of moments could be crucial to somebody's life," said Diana Brown of Cinnaminson.

The township currently has four full-time police dispatchers and nine part-timers.

It's one of only seven towns in the county with its own emergency dispatchers. The central communications center already handles calls for 27 towns in Burlington County.

The police union president says joining the county system could cause delays in response times in part because there are several police departments on the same radio band. The township says because local taxpayers are already paying for the service through a fee included in the county portion of their tax bill.

The move would allow the township to save about $300,000 a year. That's enough to offset money they're losing in state aid. The township says there is no basis for believing that there will be longer response times with the county system.

The police union says it is concerned that it has received no guarantee that the dispatchers will be allowed to keep their jobs when the switch is made.