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Md. State Police agrees to join Washington County 911 network

May 14, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Maryland State Police would join a countywide 911 communications network under an agreement approved unanimously Tuesday by the Washington County Commissioners.

The state police will not help pay the network's operating costs, but instead will open part of the state police's planned new Hagerstown barrack to the Washington County Sheriff's Department, which will use the space for an Eastern District patrol station.

County officials said the agreement, which would allow county dispatchers to work on state police calls, is key to consolidating radio communications in the county.

"It would create a system that would be dependent not on a particular agency, but on who is the closest police officer to the incident at the time," Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said.

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The $21.8 million consolidated communications system will allow all local police and fire and rescue agencies to talk to each other during emergencies.

Currently, each department uses different radio frequencies to dispatch calls, which can make communication between departments difficult.

Under the consolidated system, Washington County employees would dispatch calls for all three police departments, Mullendore said.

The Hagerstown Police Department has agreed to provide some dispatchers for the system. Those dispatchers will become county employees.

While state police officials said last year that they were interested in the consolidation, logistics prevented their dispatchers from becoming county employees and they did not have money to help pay for operating costs, Maryland State Police Lt. Col. Matthew G. Lawrence said.

"When we started talking with state police late last year, my first inclination was that (dispatching for state police) wasn't going to fly," Mullendore said.

But Tuesday's agreement resolves the issue by allowing sheriff's department dispatchers to work calls for state police in exchange for an "in-kind" contribution to the system, Mullendore said.

Under the agreement, a criminal investigations unit and crime laboratory will be housed in the new state police barrack in addition to the Eastern District station.

The Eastern District station will allow the sheriff's department to split the county into two patrol districts later this year or early next year, Mullendore said.

The Eastern and Western districts will be divided along the U.S. 11 corridor.

The consolidated communications system should be finished by the first quarter of 2009, Mullendore said.

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