Jacksonville State University police are set to return to in-house dispatch services in July, less than a year after outsourcing those duties in the expectation of improved efficiency.
JSU officials now say contracting out the emergency and non-emergency medical calls hasn't made the dispatch service more efficient. The JSU police will instead use a combination of professional dispatchers and student workers to handle all emergency and non-emergency calls moving forward.
JSU police Chief Shawn Giddy sent a letter to Calhoun County 911 Monday stating his department no longer wanted the organization to manage its dispatch services. Calhoun County 911 answers every 911 call in the county. It also provides dispatch services for multiple fire and police departments in the county.
Calhoun County 911 began handling JSU’s dispatch services in January under a $78,000 annual contract. Due to the contract cancellation, the agency will end management of those services July 30. JSU officials discussed the contract cancellation briefly during a JSU board of trustees committee meeting Monday.
“The idea was to have professionally trained dispatchers at the county level with a streamlined approach to save us all money and improve efficiency,” said Buffy Lockette, JSU spokeswoman. “The county system is just not working as we hoped.”
Instead, the department plans to hire two full-time dispatchers, two part-time dispatchers and use five students to handle calls.
Kevin Jenkins, director of Calhoun County 911, said he did not learn about JSU’s plans until he received Giddy’s letter.
“We were completely taken by surprise, particularly since Calhoun County 911 was not consulted as part of JSU’s decision,” Jenkins said.
Giddy said the problem is that his department receives far more non-emergency calls — like students locking their keys in their cars — than emergency calls. Giddy said the process of Calhoun County 911 answering non-emergency calls and then relaying those calls to the JPD has been slower than expected.
“It’s slowed down services,” Giddy said.
Giddy also said many other students are just bypassing Calhoun County 911 and calling his department directly for non-emergency calls as they did in the past.
“They have been working real hard to fulfill the needs,” Giddy said of Calhoun County 911. “It’s just that people don’t feel comfortable calling 911 for things like having tennis court street lights turned on.”
Another reason JSU tried outsourcing was to help the department maintain its national accreditation. Previously, the department was relying too heavily on students for dispatch services to maintain its accreditation.
“We fully and truly hoped that would be the answer,” Giddy said of partnering with Calhoun County 911.
Jenkins said he questions JSU’s ability to handle dispatch services on its own should a catastrophic event occur on campus.
“Our utmost concern is for how efficiently JSU will be able to handle such an event, as each and every 911 call pertaining to JSU PD will quickly be routed to the on-campus dispatcher,” Jenkins said. “Calhoun County 911 is simply better prepared to handle such rapidly-evolving state of affairs.”