OAK LAWN, Ill. (STMW) — During this week’s meeting of the Oak Lawn Village Board, trustee Bob Streit (3rd) brought up concerns about the emergency call center, citing a letter from Evergreen Park regarding concerns over “a series of incidents in the last several weeks” involving alleged poor service.
Oak Lawn’s emergency dispatchers handle calls for several communities, including Evergreen Park. The center was privatized this year in a cost-cutting move and many of the dispatchers lost their jobs.
A letter from Evergreen Park attorney Michael Cainkar to dispatch center director Kathy Hansen expressed concern over
responses to calls, including one about a man with a gun, information that allegedly was not included in what a dispatcher told police officers.
In the Feb. 24 letter, Cainkar said the “recent performance poses a direct threat to both public and officer safety.”
Streit agreed, saying: “There’s more. This is the tip of the iceberg.”
During the board meeting, Streit said he and other board members were not told about the complaints by Village Manager Larry Deetjen and Mayor Sandra Bury.
“This board is supposed to set policy, but it’s impossible to set policy when complaints and issues are hidden from the board. There is no excuse, especially when it comes to the safety of the public and our residents,” Streit said during the meeting.
Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton, however, said Thursday that he’s pleased with the new system and is certain problems will be worked out.
“We’ve had a few little hiccups with the changeover and people are trying to make political hay with it. There’s no hay to be made,” Sexton said. “If this had happened a few years back, nobody would have even cared. With the transfer over in dispatch, there were a few hiccups.”
Sexton praised the work of Hansen who, he said, “is working with our [police and fire] chiefs and, hopefully, they’ll get those situations rectified.”
“It’s not a big deal at this point,” Sexton said Thursday.
“There were hiccups in past years, but when we sent a memo, it didn’t get published. It’s just doing business,” he said.
The memo Sexton referred to appeared earlier this week in a blog called the Oak Lawn Leaf.
Deetjen said he and Cainkar were “flabbergasted that such a document would be displayed on a political blog authored by a former mayor and a sitting trustee.”
“Let me assure you that the men and women of our emergency dispatch center and our contractor, Norcomm, have nothing but the safety of this community at heart,” Deetjen said during the board meeting. “We handle over 100,000 calls a year (for several communities including Oak Lawn and Evergreen Park). We do an outstanding job, but we’re not perfect. We weren’t perfect before the change.”
In previous years, issues were handled within the rules of a labor contract with workers in the 911 center “and it was never publicly discussed,” he said.
“Those are the facts because men and women are human. Have you ever listened to an emergency call? Often, words aren’t clear,” Deetjen said, adding “don’t let anyone up here scare or misinform you.”
After the board meeting Tuesday night, Bury said she agreed with what Deetjen said regarding Streit’s comments.
“If there were an increase in instances, if there were a change in patterns, we don’t see that,” Bury said. “To imply there were no mistakes with the former system … you’re seeing it made into something political and that’s really a shame.
“I have to be very careful regarding employees, but the former dispatchers were not errorless. They were not without discipline. Larry said it best.”
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)