Partnership examines R.I. public safety dispatch

Taubman Center joins forces with R.I. commission, aiming for municipal cost reduction

Contributing Writer
Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Joint Municipal Shared Services Study Commission announced a new partnership with the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions Feb. 3. The goal of the partnership is to evaluate the current effectiveness of Rhode Island’s public safety dispatch, according to a General Assembly press release.

The  commission formed in 2012 to identify ways for towns and cities to save money by sharing certain services, such as public safety dispatch and tax collection, said Sen. Louis DiPalma, D-Little Compton, Middletown, Newport and Tiverton, co-chairman of the commission. Focusing on lower property taxes, the commission aims to design a shared services plan, he added

“The objective of the partnership, therefore, is the analysis,” DiPalma said.  The commission will share information about municipal expenditures on public safety dispatch with the Taubman Center, which will evaluate how the commission should proceed “to have a more cost efficient and cost effective approach in the future,” he said.

This is the commission’s first partnership since beginning its operations in 2013, DiPalma said, adding the collaboration was initiated by himself and analysts in the Senate Fiscal Office who were familiar with the Taubman Center’s work.

The team from the Taubman Center is composed of two faculty members, two graduate students and one undergraduate student, said Erik Godwin, lecturer of public policy at the Taubman Center and one of the professors involved in the partnership.

The students have previously expressed interest in applied work opportunities of this kind, said Jonathan Wolinsky GS, one of the graduate students on the Taubman Center team.

“The partnership between the Taubman Center and the state allows for the state to have access to high quality research in an area that is currently of interest to many people around Rhode Island,” Wolinsky said. “It also allows Taubman and Brown to continue a tradition of involvement with our surrounding communities.”

The team has begun their research into current public safety dispatch systems across R.I. municipalities while also looking at models from other states, said Jamie Rosen ’17, who works on the project.

The Taubman Center will produce a report — expected to be completed Mar. 7 — and will present its findings to the Shared Services Commission and the State Legislature, Rosen added.

The team must analyze the available information quickly given the approaching deadline, Godwin said. “We are in the process now of speaking to dispatch centers and call centers around the state and finding out how they operate and what sorts of conditions they are facing.”

The benefits of the partnership extend beyond the actual analysis of data. “We are providing an opportunity for students to work on real world problems, and that is important as well, ” DiPalma said.

And Godwin said, “The biggest benefit for me is the opportunity to work with the students on policy issues that have pretty significant implications for the state. For them to learn on the job like this, on an issue that has a lot of moving parts and that a lot of people care about, is incredibly handy for their training.”

  • In the Know

    Hopefully the panel will make recommendations regarding the fact that exactly zero public safety dispatch centers in RI utilize certified Emergency Medical Dispatchers and not just look at the dollars and cents of consolidation and staff reduction.

    FWIW, there can be considerable costs in regionalizing dispatch centers (particularly on the fire service side) that most people outside the industry don’t take into account. Warwick and East Greenwich found this out within the last few years, which is why there is no Warwick/EG dispatch center today.