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Chiefs say Jefferson County 911 center no longer makes warrant checks

July 30, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Two local police chiefs said Tuesday that Jefferson County's 911 center no longer checks for warrants from municipal police departments when police officers make such a request.

Charles Town Police Chief Barry Subelsky said county residents are "less safe" because the warrants aren't being checked.

In the past, when police officers stopped someone for questioning - for instance, during a traffic stop - they could ask a 911 dispatcher to check for warrants from other police departments to see if that person was wanted for other violations, Subelsky said.

About six months ago, Jeff Polczynski, head of Jefferson County's 911 system, decided to stop providing the assistance.

Subelsky said dispatchers still check for warrants from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and will check warrants from other departments, if they have time.

"He just decided that on his own," Subelsky said, referring to Polczynski. "That's where I draw the line."

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Subelsky said Tuesday that local citizens are paying a 911 fee to support the dispatching center and "they're not getting their money's worth."

Ranson Police Chief Bill Roper confirmed that checks for warrants from municipal police departments had ceased. Roper called the situation "one problem" among a "multitude of things" involving the 911 center.

Roper said he e-mailed Polczynski and local police chiefs Tuesday about setting up a meeting to resolve some issues.

Polczynski said Tuesday afternoon that when dispatchers check warrants, they have to wade through six or seven lists. Not only can the process be cumbersome, but sometimes the information in the lists is not up-to-date, he said.

Polczynski said the system "was a far cry from perfect" and suggested that the police departments come up with a better computerized system that dispatchers can use.

The issue was one of several that have arisen this week over the 911 center.

Subelsky and two other police chiefs in the county said Monday they have concerns about the capabilities of a new multimillion-dollar 911 radio system for the county.

Subelsky and Shepherdstown (W.Va.) Police Chief Terry Bellomy said the new radios do not always transmit properly, adding that there are "dead" areas of the county where the radios don't work.

Bellomy said the problems are compounded by the fact that police can't get any help from the 911 center. Polczynski does not attend periodic meetings of chiefs of police where issues are discussed, Bellomy said.

Polczynski defended the system, saying there is no radio network that has perfect reception and that it deserves more testing.

Polczynski said Tuesday that he has been at meetings with agency officials to discuss 911 issues but he often ends up feeling like he is being faced with a "firing squad. You get tired of it," he said.

Polczynski could not provide the cost of the new 911 center and its radio system Tuesday. He said he was told the figure would have to come from County Administrator Leslie Smith or the Jefferson County Commission.

Subelsky said the radio system cost about $3 million.

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