County Comment: Sheriff Cites Public Safety Improvements

County Comment
Sheriff Cites Public Safety Improvements
By Norman Bassett, Public Information Officer
Washington County, Maryland

Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore will be the first to say that improvements to public safety operations this calendar year have been a long time in coming, and are the culmination of the hard work of many.
Mullendore lauded his predecessor; Sheriff Charles Mades for being a driving force in the Central Booking Facility as well as the consolidated 9-1-1 Dispatch Center and the County's interoperable radio communications system.
Consolidated Booking has been in the works since 1999, and the project's completion last February means that the process of booking those suspected of committing crimes is reduced from hours to minutes, enabling law enforcement personnel to return to the streets in the shortest possible time.
All law enforcement in Washington County now use the single point of entry system for booking. In the past, Sheriff's Deputies, Hagerstown Police and Maryland State Police have had to transport suspects to individual headquarters for fingerprinting, photographing and paperwork. After completing the preliminary stage, the individual was transported to District Court in downtown Hagerstown, for an initial judiciary hearing for determination of bond, which takes three-to four hours. After that step, officers had to transport the suspect to the County Detention Center.
Now, with all aspects of the process in one place, the time officers spend off the streets is a maximum of 30-45 minutes.
"We're utilizing our law enforcement resources more efficiently and getting officers back on the street so they can handle calls for service." Mullendore said.
Location of the District Court Commissioners' office within Central Booking means less prisoner transport, and reduces the risk for escape or the possibility of assault on officers.
The 9-1-1 Consolidated Dispatch Center, opened by Washington County in January of this year is another example of best use of public safety resources. Instead of having four emergency communications centers: Fire and Emergency Services, County Sheriff, Hagerstown Police and State Police, one center is dispatching emergency vehicles for police, fire and medical incidents.
This single point of entry reduces response time for emergencies because calls no longer have to be transferred from center to center. Police personnel are being cross-trained in Fire and Medical emergency dispatch protocols, and by the same token, Fire and EMS dispatch personnel are learning law enforcement dispatch procedures.
Hagerstown Police Chief Art Smith recently credited Consolidated Dispatch with the arrest of a bank robbery suspect within 6 minutes of the initial 9-1-1 call.
Sherriff Mullendore called problems with interoperable radio communications the greatest problem law enforcement in the county has to face. Soon, all police, fire, medical emergency and support services will be able to communicate with one another over a single radio frequency. Currently police services have to patch several frequencies electronically to allow for communications between County, State, and municipal police services.
The County's new radio system, which will come on line this year, will eliminate that problem and provide radio communications to portions of the County that have not been able to be adequately served in the past. In addition, public safety units from neighboring counties will be able to communicate directly using a mutual aid frequency.
In addition, the new system will provide mobile data for County Sheriff's vehicles. On-board computers will aid officers in responding to incidents by providing information about a situation to the officer as it is being entered by the 9-1-1 dispatch center.
"When this happens, the coordination between agencies will be much improved," Mullendore said.