Council reacts to 911 decision to purchase new police reporting system

BURTON — Mayor Duane Haskins informed the city council March 1 that Genesee County 911 has decided to purchase a new $1.4 million Records Management System (RMS) program that all police agencies will have to join or face an annual penalty of $3,400.

The cost to join the system is $12,000 a year for Burton, which is higher than the $7,000 it currently pays for its P-1 reporting system. But coupled with a $3,400 annual penalty for not signing on with the county’s new system, Burton will almost be paying almost the same as the annual cost of the new system.

Haskins said in talking with his city’s police chief, there are some issues with the new system which leaves Burton’s participation in question.

“There’s a couple little tidbits to it that we here in Burton weren’t comfortable with,” said Haskins.

One, he said, was the city just switched over to an RMS system called Premier One a few years ago. When Burton switched over this system, he said it was basically supposed to be the same thing. The system was for reporting statewide if a department was on that P-1 system.

“It sounds like a majority of the police departments are going to go ahead and switch to this new system and it sounds like 911 is just going to go ahead and do it if they had everyone onboard or not,” said Haskins. “We’re sort of handcuffed on this one and we’re not sure what direction we’re going to go in.”

He said the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department currently can’t afford to switch to the new system because it would cost them more than $380,000 to switch and another $180,000 a year in its annual fee.

The idea of having every police department on the same system is for reporting purposes, so every agency on the RMS network statewide would be able to share information about crimes, and criminal activity, and the criminals who are arrested and charged.

Councilman Dennis O’Keefe, who represents the city on the 911 board, said this is the first objection from the city administration that he’s heard on the matter.

“I send to you…reports, this is the first I hear our city is not endorsing this program,” said O’Keefe. “I wish I would have known this a little sooner. My comments have been very positive – the reason they are positive is this is a very small increase.

“The one thing I’ve learned about 911 is it’s all about technology, and it’s just an ever-changing thing. Every day we buy something that’s obsolete. I’m sure this enhancement there’s a good reason for it. (911 has) good people there, they do a phenomenal job. I’d like to be in the loop if I’m representing the city and be on the same page as city hall.”

Haskins said this wasn’t originally going to be something that was “that big of a deal” because departments would either opt-in or out. But on Feb. 26, the 911 executive board came up with the additional charges if communities wanted to stay on their old reporting system.

“We weren’t originally going to go with it,” said Haskins. “To switch over a whole reporting system may sound easy to the person who’s just getting all of this information, but when you put that reporting system in play with the police department, it’s way more complex. For one, you’re switching a reporting system and the reporting systems don’t coincide with each other, so any open cases you have right now under the old system, they all have to be re-entered into the new system to be able to be updated with tracking, warrants, arrests, casefile and anything else.”

Haskins said the Burton Police just recently got caught up on the fairly new P-1 system and if they were to switch, there would be a great deal of work involved.

Haskins said he thinks 911 should have consulted the communities in Genesee County to find out what they wanted before signing a contract committing to the new system.

“Needless to say, the cost factor isn’t significant,” said Haskins. “It’s the fact there was not a vote by the general membership, no discussion.”

Council President Steve Heffner said he finds it “just amazing” someone at a desk can make such a decision for the entire county and not even ask if the communities can afford it.

“That sounds like taxation without representation,” said Councilman Tom Martinbianco.

Heffner also said it makes no sense that the sheriff’s department, the largest law enforcement agency in Genesee County, will be unable to participate because of cost but the rest of the county is expected to sign on.

O’Keefe said there is a meeting next Tuesday, March 9 and he asked how the city wants him to vote I’d like to vote.

Haskins said the deal is already done and there will not be a vote because 911 already signed the contract.

“I understand the premise behind it. I don’t want to steer anybody the wrong way,” he said. “To get everybody on the same reporting system in the county is a fabulous idea, I just think that it should have been presented to the official elected body, not just the police chiefs or the fire chiefs, but it should have been brought to each municipality to talk about the changes and what they’re aspiring to do.”

Haskins added it will take two years for the system to be up and operating, to which Martinbianco replied, “in 2023? It will be obsolete by then.”

The city will still have to decide if it will opt-in or opt-out of the new system. Haskins said the current system P-1 system is going through a major upgrade soon and its cost will also go up at that time.