HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Before the brothers in blue show up to a scene, a team of dispatchers has answered a phone call that could mean life or death for the person on the other end. Their job is of utmost importance to the community and the Alabama State Troopers.
“We work to make sure that we have 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year coverage so that the public receives the services they need,” said Capt. James Patterson, Director of Communications for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
Two years ago, these jobs with ALEA would fill 14 dispatch centers around the state. Today, the agency is in the midst of consolidating the smaller offices into three large call centers. Patterson said this will save money.
“We’re consolidating to be able to do that more efficiently, more effectively to provide the same number of services with less personnel,” Patterson said.
ALEA receives financial support through the Alabama General Fund and various grants. A tight budget means they’re forced to do more with less. Through consolidation, they save money on dispatch to help another serious need.
“We have a severe shortage of state troopers on the road and we want to reduce our expenses so that we can hire more people,” Patterson said.
“If we don’t have the manpower to assist you, if you’re in some type of distressful situation whether it be a husband, wife or a child so definitely this affects the public also if there aren’t enough troopers on the roadway,” ALEA Spokesman Curtis Summerville said.
Aside from the trooper shortage, the equipment dispatchers currently use brings another challenge.
“Troopers right now are in danger because our telecommunications systems are outdated and the coverage is not where it needs to be,” Patterson said.
Currently, space in the Decatur post is limited. So, they are partnering with the National Guard to remodel a facility that will house a large ALEA dispatch center, Highway Patrol posts and National Guardsmen. They are currently seeking funding, so there’s no word yet on when the new center will be up and running.