October 14, 2008

Silent Dispatch

The information that is revealed at election time is often quite interesting. Case in point: The Niagara County Sheriff's Department uses a system that is referred to as "silent dispatch" when sending out certain calls. Apparently silent dispatch is used when dispatchers do not want a call to go out over the normal communication method, radio. Silent dispatch allows the dispatcher to send a communication directly to the sheriff deputy's in-car computer, so people who may be listening, those with scanners, including other law enforcement agencies, cannot get the call.

From what we have learned, the use of silent dispatch was implemented to stop other law enforcement from "jumping" county deputy's calls. Supposedly there are turf wars between the different law enforcement agencies related to who exactly is going to get the calls, and thus the glory, when 911 emergencies arise.

This is obviously something the general public does not hear too much about. There may be "no harm no foul" in such a public policy; unless that policy places the public in danger, which we have learned that it has.

About three years ago, there was a very high profile local case involving a teen aged girl and her brother. We will leave out the details, but both of the siblings were severely assaulted. Eventually, a passerby saw one of the victims running from the scene of these horrific crimes and called police. When dispatching the call, the NCSD used silent dispatch.

Here's the problem. There wasn't a Sheriff anywhere in the immediate vicinity, but there was a Niagara Falls Police vehicle less than two minutes away. Now, there is no insinuation that any police agency could have prevented these horribly traumatic events from occurring, but as anyone who has been a victim of a crime knows, seeing those flashing lights and hearing those sirens can make all the difference in the world. As anyone in law enforcement knows, response time may make the difference in whether or not an assailant is captured or not. Because the NCSD used silent dispatch, Niagara Falls didn't get the call, just county deputies. This use of silent dispatch delayed the nearest law enforcement agency from responding immediately. That is an absolute travesty.

It gets worse: There is a seven page document prepared by the New York State Police that details the pratfalls of the NCSD using silent dispatch. In it, a vehicle accident is documented in which a male occupant burned to death in his vehicle. In this opinion, it is believed that the use of silent dispatch, and thus the delayed response in getting to the scene, is a significant factor in the death. We are working to get the entire seven page document.

The topic of silent dispatch came up recently in a relatively innocuous manner. Candidate Ernest Palmer mentioned it on a recent appearance on WJJL. From what we have learned, candidate James Voutour was so infuriated with Palmer having knowledge of silent dispatch, he called a meeting at the Sheriff's Department in which he not only addressed the shift currently on duty, he called in the afternoon shift early demanding to know who "leaked" the use of silent dispatch to Palmer.

He allegedly went as far as to single out two highly respected deputies, accusing them of being the leak, in front of a room full of their peers. This is problematic on multiple fronts. How can Voutour waste taxpayer dollars by calling in a second shift early? Secondly, how the hell is he allowed to conduct politics on taxpayer's time, in the department? If you're wondering how we know he was politicking, we've heard from multiple sources that he addressed Palmer by name, at one point calling him an idiot. Classy.

Obviously the use of silent dispatch is the biggest problem here. If this practice is putting the lives of the community in harms way, it needs to be eliminated. However, there are times when silent dispatch would be needed, such as a break-in in progress when silence would be needed should the perpetrators have a scanner. But for life saving circumstances? Please.

Review the policy, amend the policy, do whatever you need to do to make sure people's lives are not at risk. If the department doesn't and something tragic occurs, the department and those responsible for the policy will have serious issues.

UPDATE: Niagara Times has received possession of the document mentioned above. We are in the process of determining how best to proceed with the information received.


lido said...

If he did hold this meeting, what would one say about his quote in today's paper, “I work very closely with people who support my opponent; I work with them every day,” Voutour said. “You have to put the politics aside and do your job as police officers.”

As my daughter used to say, that'd make him a big, fat liar. I hope you get ahold of that document.

Frank DeGeorge said...

This is beyond political. It's borderline criminali. How the hell does the stuff go on in this day and age....aren't we passed the idea of police department rivalries?

From Lewiston said...

Voiture can best be described as a "hot head". His only supporters
are some young traffic officers.

His homemade signs(stenciled on particle board) we see in Niagara Falls, demonstrate his low budget operation.

Let's get someone who can solve crime for our next sheriff.

From Lewiston said...

One more comment... The only real "press" the NC Sheriff's department has ever received over the past several years , was how they treated Supreme Court Justice Fricano. At the time, a Sheriff spokesman said "she was treated like anyone else". To me, that comment really sums-up the mentality of the current Sheriff's Dept, and the need for change.

We're rid of Beiline, let make sure Voutour gets the boot too.

Barney said...

Nice post - I would like to hear what the acting Sheriff has to say about it.

Why can't we have the same level of scrutiny of the Niagara Falls school board and the mess they left the tax payers in.

rob clark said...

I agree with Barney. I'm quite sure that the NFPD has just as many problems as the Sheriffs Dept. Only if you notice Mr. Voutour has taken the high road on not attacking back.
Hobbes, I would love to see you put this much effort into something like the school districts in this county.

Mr. Pink said...


Do you really think silent dispatch is not a camapaign issue? Do you believe one department's desire for credit supersedes the need to provide aid to those under duress.

If this is true...and that is an open question...Mr. Voutour is not qualified to be sheriff.

"The Matador" said...

Most of the public is blinded as to what the Sheriffs Department is all about. But it's coming to the surface. The good ol' boy system with Beilein, Sam "The Bull" Muscarella, Chris Carlin and yes hand picked Voutour are the worst dictators and power hungry people that live in Niagara County. Thank God we traded in Albany to get rid of Beilein. Carlin is gone also to the like of many, he had a huge retirement party of about all 3 people because he was so liked. As all the shananigans of these individuals and the current administration come to the surface over the next few weeks you can bet that Voutour who has ABSOLUTELY NO EXPERINCE compared to Chief Palmer will go back to being a road patrol deputy and learnig how to be a Sergeant/Captain/and Chief Deputy since he was all of these titles for about 3 days each. Hobbes keep writing and informing the good people of this county.

"The Matador" said...

Just thought everyone on this blog would like to know the Independence Party recentley endorsed Chief Palmer for Niagara County Sheriff. Chair Eileen Kozelak stated "both candidates were interviewed and PALMERS qualifications were FAR SUPERIOR to Voutour." Put that in your pipe and smoke it "Jim".

RobertJ said...

Why do you think all the Police Chief’s have endorsed Capt. Palmer? Niagara County’s silent dispatch has silent to the public for several years, but the Chief’s have heard it loud and clear. Change is the political word of the day. For Niagara County residence change from the status quo of the Secret Police, (Niagara County Sheriff’s) is urgently needed. Deputy Voutour says his mentor was the former sheriff. The truth is, Voutour is a clone of the former Sheriff. Your local police agencies are all but begging that you support a change. Support your local police if not for them do it for your family and loved ones. Vote as I will, vote for a real professional, Capt. Palmer. He actually has arrested bad guys. Jim Voutour has never corrected the Conservative party’s assertion that he has never made a felony (serious criminal arrest) arrest. 16 years, and never made a serious criminal arrest? Well then again, how much street crime do you really think there is in Newfane, Barker, Summerset, Wilson, Youngstown? In Voutours own words, he does chase cows and there are other ways to handle crime than arrests. What’s that Jim, if the support your campaign, know you, are your friends then they just go on their way? Yea, a real professional!