Police say new dispatch system puts lives at risk

Police say new dispatch system puts lives at risk »Play Video
Sgt. Bernie Meyer, with the Fairview Police Department, says the new computer system in his patrol car is so difficult to operate that it could seriously delay emergency response times.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Police across Multnomah County say they’re worried a new emergency dispatch system could put lives at risk, including their own.

It’s a $17 million system that connects 9-1-1 calls to police and fire departments and it went online a month ago.

But agencies that have to use it say it’s so difficult to operate that it could seriously delay response times.

Sgt. Bernie Meyer, with the Fairview Police Department, said one of the problems with the new system is that the font size on the computer in his patrol car is much smaller than what it used to be.

"Trying to get a call quickly and trying to read the information while you’re getting to the call is almost impossible without pulling over to read it," he said.

He also said the system is harder to navigate. On the previous system, everything was on one screen. With the new system, there are layers of pages, making it easy to miss crucial new information about a call.

"Troutdale had a person with a gun call and in order to pull up that call, I had to delete Multnomah County status and get Troutdale’s status and refresh – there’s a refresh button – I had to refresh it several times before I could even pull up the call to go and assist," Meyer said.

He said that process took him three or four minutes and it’s a huge factor in reaction time.

Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz oversees the Bureau of Emergency Communications. She insists the new system works and is better than the old one. It just may take some getting used to.

"There’re a lot of changes to get used to as there are with any new computer," she said. "We had 60 concerns in the first three months of the year on the old system, so the old system was also not working all the time the way that the frontline providers wanted it to either."

After a meeting at the BOEC Thursday afternoon, more than 50-priority issues will get fixed. Fairview’s police chief, Ken Johnson, said they can’t come soon enough.

"Whatever needs to be done needs to be done to fix these safety issues before someone is seriously injured or killed," he said.

The first fixes will be the font issues and problems with sending officers to wrong addresses.

They’re hoping to implement the changes on those more than 50-priority issues by next week and continue working on the others down the road.