Lawrence Chief Deems Privatization of Police Dispatchers a Success

LAWRENCE — In the five months since Plainsboro-based IXP Corp. started answering 911 calls for the township, officers have been able to return to patrol duty and dispatch staffing levels have been at their highest in at least a year, police chief Dan Posluszny told council tonight.

Privatization of dispatch services has turned out to be “a really, really big advantage for the town,” he said.

Lawrence was the first town in the state to privatize its police dispatching operations after council voted 4-0 in favor of the move during a meeting in January. IXP employees began working at the police department on April 1, handling emergency calls and calls to the non-emergency line.

The town has a two-year contract with IXP worth $719,400 a year, or $59,950 a month. The town has an option to renew IXP’s contract for another three years, and the deal is projected to bring savings of at least $1.1 million over five years.

Currently, IXP has 14 employees, nine full-time and four part-time, working different shifts at Lawrence. They include a training officer and lead operator, Posluszny said. Just one of those employees previously worked dispatch for the Lawrence police. The other former dispatchers have moved on.

Prior to the privatization only five full-time dispatching positions were filled of the nine available, and police were routinely pulled off the job to help out.

Now there are always always three dispatchers working the phones during the day, and two overnight, Posluszny said. He added that police are no longer needed to fill in for dispatchers, and two officers have been back out on patrol. The township’s police force is currently 58 members strong, with about 44 officers dedicated to patrol, Posluszny said.

Statistics Posluszny presented to council this evening showed that IXP is meeting its contractual goal of answering 911 calls within 10 seconds or less for 90 percent of calls received during the busiest hour of the day, and 95 percent of 911 calls within 20 seconds.

From April to the end of July the police department received 4,166 calls for service, of which 97.1 percent were answered within 10 seconds on average, Posluszny said.

Township officials have said privatizing was a way to save money and free up police officers, who sometimes substituted as dispatchers, for patrol work.

They said today that they were glad to see that the move was paying off.

Mayor Jim Kownacki said he was originally skeptical of having communications done by a private company, but was relieved to see that things have been going so well.

Opponents to the move argued earlier this year that privatizing the services could result in a loss of quality, cause potential safety issues and result in a loss of jobs.

So far Posluszny said that he hasn’t received a complaint about IXP’s services and that fears brought up during discussions of privatization have not come to pass.

“Every fear brought up by the communications officers losing their positions has been unfounded,” he said.

By Jon Offredo/The Times of Trenton