SHREVEPORT POLICE DEPARTMENT AND THE 911 CITY AUDIT

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Shreveport Attorney John Settle
Opinion by John Settle

Its doubtful that much in the way of new initiatives will be accomplished by City Hall between now and year end – – other than the swearing in of Shreveport’s new mayor and council members on December 27. Thus the recent audit by the city’s internal auditor of the Shreveport Police Department (SPD) staffing for 911 calls will probably remain on SPD Chief Willis Shaw’s shelf – – until such time as his job status with the new mayor is resolved.

chiefPolice-ShawIf Victoria Provenza is elected Shaw is history; Provenza has run a basically “white only” campaign and it is doubtful her administration will have many black faces in key positions once the dust settles. If Provenza’s campaign running buddy Jim Taliaferro is unsuccessful in his effort to become Shreveport City Marshal, he could be Provenza’s pick for police chief.

Where Shaw stands with Ollie Tyler is uncertain; she basically dodged questions on personnel only saying she was her “own” person and not a “Glover girl”. Most observers believe Tyler will encourage Shaw to retire for to 2 key reasons. Tyler is known to operate with a close circle of highly loyal people, and Shaw was not her hire. Additionally, Shaw has become entangled in 2 messy situations: litigation over the demotion of once chief investigator Rod Demery to patrol and possible discussions with former Shreveport Fire Chief Craig Mulford about the Station 8 fiasco.

caddo-9-1-1-districtThe Caddo Parish 911 District is a political subdivision of the State of Louisiana; it is solely self-funded and does not receive any funds from the City of Shreveport, the Parish of Caddo or from the State of Louisiana. The District’s revenue is derived through a telephone surcharge fee that was approved by the voters of Caddo Parish in 1986; in 1996 the voters of Caddo Parish approved an increase in that surcharge fee. Through intergovernmental agreements that the with the City of Shreveport and the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office, the 911 District funds the Texas Avenue communications facility, which includes the computer systems, radios, mobile data systems, 911 system and network as well as the training for the communications/dispatch officers.

The police dispatch officers are paid from the police department’s budget and the fire dispatch officers are included the fire department’s budget. The audit criticized the extensive overtime wages paid to the SPD dispatchers. In 2013, more than a quarter of the police full-time 911 employees took extended sick time at different times of the year; as a result overtime wages were paid to man the extra shifts. The overtime pay was $144,170 in 2011, $203,622 in 2012 and $169,480 in 2013.

Accountant AuditThe audit recommended the hiring of 3 additional police dispatchers to lessen the potential of employee mistakes, to improve morale and productivity and to decrease overall labor costs. How much real flexibility in staffing is unknown unless new staff is added; in 2013 several employees were out on extended leave and workman’s compensation leave which prevented the replacement of those dispatchers. Chief Shaw has not requested additional funding for positions the past 3 years; most of what the SPD has listed as “unfunded needs” has been for equipment and vehicle purchases.

The proposed 2015 budget for the police department has an additional $1,620,200 budgeted for the 2% annual pay increase for sworn personnel, and for increased costs for health insurance and retirement benefits. The 911 police dispatchers will receive their share of those additional funds; also some equipment purchases have also been budgeted for 911 personnel. However, no additional funds are budgeted to address hiring of additional police dispatchers as recommended in the audit.

award-winnerThe good news is the outstanding performance of the SPD’s 911 dispatchers. In 2013 they were able to exceed the standard set by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) requiring 90% of 911 calls to be answered in 10 seconds during the busy hour. SPD dispatchers answered 97% of the 911 calls in 10 seconds and 98% of all 911 calls were answered in 20 seconds, which exceeds the NENA standard of 95%. SPD dispatchers handled 75% of the total dispatch incidents during 2013; the fire department dispatch officers (who are equal in number) handled the remaining calls. Seemingly adjustment in budgets of the police and fire departments could be made to be reflective of workload and staffing for the 911 center.

How soon the new mayor and the expected to be new Police Chief review (if they do) the audit and its recommendations is an open questions. The challenges identified in the audit are real – – however they pale when compared with those the new administration must immediately deal with after taking office, and getting new people in place. Hopefully the 911 staffing will be increased – – although this is not likely before the 2016 budget is approved.

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