EAST ST. LOUIS — The Metro East Police District Commission is moving toward unifying the crime reporting system used by the four police departments the commission oversees and creating one police dispatching center for the four departments -- East St. Louis, Brooklyn, Washington Park and Alorton.
East St. Louis is the largest Police Department and it already uses the CODY records management system. Members of the police commission want to get the other three departments on the CODY system. So, they are exploring how much this change would cost.
Also, the commissioners are looking into whether Washington Park's dispatchers can keep their jobs or be offered severance packages when they place the dispatching operation in a shared capacity that will be run out of the East St. Louis telecommunication office.
The commission in March adopted a strategic plan for the departments to share services. And on Friday, at the board's regular monthly meeting at New Life Community Church at 1919 State St., there was plenty of lively discussion about the plan.
St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said it is imperative that everybody be on the same reporting system.
"The strategic plan that the commission adopted is dependent upon having accurate data about crimes that are occurring in these four communities. Right now we don't have a complete accurate picture in terms of time, date, location and pattern of crimes in those locations," Kelly said.
Kelly said the U.S. Department of Justice "has given us some serious resources to help implement the strategic plan which is focused on shared services, crime reduction, metrics and officer accountability."
The other big change for the four police departments would be the creation of one police dispatching center that would handle all of the police calls.
Alorton officials said they are spending $75,000 a year for dispatching through St. Clair County. But, previously when they used Centreville, which has its own dispatching center, the cost for them was $36,000. Alorton handles about 6,000 calls a year, according to Lamar Gentry, village administrator. Washington Park spends $139,000 a year with St. Clair County for their police calls, according to Ray Coleman, a consultant for Washington Park.
East St. Louis City Manager Deletra Hudson said she would check to see how much it will cost to add the additional police departments to the CODY reporting system and what it would cost the departments for East St. Louis to dispatch for them. Police Chief Michael Floore said some renovations and additional computers would be needed and this would be an added expense to East St. Louis. But, he is for looking into making it happen.
St. Clair County Sheriff Richard Watson said the CODY system being used by the departments will ensure that every crime statistic is reported accurately. Having the police dispatchers under one umbrella will only enhance communication between the departments and their staff members, he said. "Technology is moving fast," Watson said. "It is easy to do it all in one location. Why can't we be the pioneer -- be the leader?"
Commission member Roger Richards, who is a former police chief of Fairview Heights, said, "We're taking baby steps, but we're headed in the right direction. I think we're really making progress. Now, we're putting the rubber where it meets the road.
Richards said change is necessary to reduce crime and give the citizens professional police services.
"If you do things the way you have always done, then you'll get the same thing," he said.
Richards, when asked why he thinks it has taken so long to make the advances that have come about as a result of the commission, he said police officers in East St. Louis run from call to call. "And when you don't have time to analyze and debrief, you never change. Change is difficult. Even in organizations who're constantly changing. Nobody does it better than the military. Change is slow." he said.
Alorton Mayor JoAnn Reed said she is glad to see things are coming together. She said she thinks the four departments will benefit greatly from the shared services. "Anything that saves us money and puts us all on the same page working to reduce the crime in our respective areas is good. I am excited about it," Reed said.
East St. Louis Mayor Alvin L. Parks Jr. has been pushing the idea for a while and after the meeting Friday, he said, "I am very happy. I wanted to be headed in the direction of sharing services. We started the commission to increase manpower, get better equipment, provide greater training and professional integrity."
Parks said the idea is to save some money that could spent on hiring more police officers for the departments.
"The people want to know that the police will be there if they need them and provide quality law enforcement. They don't care if each department has its own jail and telecommunication center," he said.
Parks said as part of shared services, the departments would share:
* Facilities used primarily for law enforcement purposes such as evidence storage, training centers and the jail.
* Equipment used primarily for law enforcement such as weapons and specialty clothing and protection devices.
* Specialized law enforcement units such as juvenile, domestic violence, homicide, major case investigations, drug sweeping operations, gun sweeping operations, drug house raids, traffic law enforcement and traffic management.
* Law enforcement related towing services.
* Maintenance of police cars, tools and equipment.
* Where it is practical, there will be pooling of insurance for proper coverage and competitive pricing.
* Finance structuring, which would include computer-based budget management.
* Law enforcement intelligence services reasonably necessary for investigating and solving crimes.
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.