West Bend Police Chief Tim Dehring released a statement, stating that because the West Bend Police Department serves all the citizens of West Bend, he intentionally does not publicly engage in partisan politics.
The West Bend Police Chief respects everyone’s right to express their opinions, and he is grateful for the elected officials willing to serve, and believe strongly in the democratic process. Reluctantly, however, Chief Dehring believes a recent editorial exchange regarding a critical component of the police department’s operations requires some clarification.
West Bend Police Chief Tim Dehring continues:
Just like some of you, I read the editorials and recognized a stark difference in perspective. One candidate pledged to seek input from citizens and officials, while the other indicated their approach was to inform the public of government operations. It is not appropriate as Police Chief to comment on which approach to democracy I prefer. I believe the consent of the governed is determined by the voters in our elections and referendums. Please be part of that process by exercising your right to vote and voting for the candidates and platforms that align with your values.
It is, however, within my role as Police Chief to provide information to our elected officials as they work on behalf of the citizens. In the editorials, a county supervisor who represents West Bend citizens stated the City of West Bend should relinquish its responsibility to dispatch emergency services to our community. Some of the points made are open for interpretation, some are differences in opinion, and some were inaccurate. While this issue has too many dynamics to be fully discussed in this message, I would like to clarify a few of the points made in the editorials to honor my pledge to be responsive and accountable to our community.
The editorial suggested that the county would take over West Bend’s dispatching duties for “free”. I assume “free” means at no cost to the taxpayer. The City of West Bend spends $513,691 in salaries to maintain a minimum staffing level of dispatchers. While the county’s dispatchers are extremely competent and professional, West Bend’s volume of calls for service would require additional positions be added. The city would also need to create new positions at the Police Department for the supplementary duties completed by our dispatchers. To state as fact that relinquishing our dispatching duties would save the taxpayers $1 million is not an accurate statement.
For a dispatch center to remain effective, it must transition to the Next Generation 911 system. This technology utilizes GPS to decrease emergency service response times by routing cell phone calls directly to the appropriate dispatch center. The editorial correctly pointed out that the state has an exclusionary grant program aimed at encouraging dispatch “consolidations” that will not allow West Bend to seek funding for the Next Generation 911 system transition. While disappointed by the decision and its dismissal of the “home rule” philosophy, I understand that grant money is limited and must be guarded to prevent overspending. Every taxpayer should listen carefully whenever grant money is presented as “free” and remember it is your hard-earned money being spent!
Knowing it was critical to implement Next Generation 911, we looked for other ways to secure funding. Like all of you do in your households, we prioritized our needs, delayed “wants”, made hard decisions, and funded this project in a responsible manner. While we did not qualify for the specific Next Generation 911 grant, the State of Wisconsin has been very supportive financially of growth and development in West Bend. The Police Department received a significant law enforcement grant in 2022 that was used to fund the first phase of the Next Generation 911 transition. The second phase of the transition was approved in last year’s budget and will be implemented in 2024.
Some of you may ask why it is important for West Bend to maintain its own dispatch center. It is a fair question. Your dispatchers are not just “someone on the other end of the phone”, they are an integral part of your public safety team. Communication is a critical component to everything your police department does. Your dispatchers are the first contact with our citizens in need, they direct our initial emergency response, and become the center of Incident Command in all levels of critical calls within the city. In addition to the Police and Fire Departments, they monitor and dispatch all the other services provided by the West Bend team that makes this city a great place to live.
I view our dispatch center and dispatchers as a critical foundation of our operational effectiveness. I am firmly against giving up control over such a vital element of our public safety team. A true “consolidation” is resource-based and involves shared governance, joint policy creation, and agency level accountability. That is not the model being implemented in our county. While I have the upmost respect for our partners at the Sheriff’s Office, the size of our organization and the community we serve requires we maintain both the responsibility and oversight for our community. We will, however, also continue our strong collaborative relationships with all of our public safety partners.
One of the last points the editorial made was the fact that many municipalities have relinquished their dispatching responsibilities. The writer cited there were “only about 25 communities” in the state that maintain their own dispatch. West Bend is the 26th largest city in Wisconsin and therefore it would make sense that we may be one of those communities. While we don’t ignore trends and industry benchmarks, we also don’t rely solely on them. Our operational decisions are based on what allows us to best Protect and Serve our community, provide excellence in policing, and keep our officers safe.
The West Bend Police Department and its members are committed to Protect and Serve the City of West Bend. We pledge to provide excellence in policing, remain accountable to our citizens, and will be responsive to the needs of the community. You have our word on that.
Chief of Police