As of Feb. 2, the University of Oregon Police Department does not directly dispatch its officers for emergency calls. Instead, the Junction City Police Department has been in charge of communicating emergencies with UOPD officers in the field, according to an email from UOPD spokesman Kelly McIver.
As counterintuitive as the system might seem, UOPD Chief Matthew Carmichael said the decision helps the department address a lack of adequate staffing. Carmichael also said the move actually streamlines the process for dispatching a UOPD officer.
“I don’t want to create confusion,” Carmichael said. “There is no change [to service]. Calling 911 today as of [Feb. 2] is the same.”
There are three 911 dispatch centers for Lane County: Central Lane 9-1-1, located in Eugene; South Lane 9-1-1, located in Cottage Grove; and West Lane 9-1-1 located in Florence. All of these dispatch centers are known as public safety answering points (PSAP), meaning they receive all 911 calls in a certain area. After determining the jurisdiction of the call, a dispatch center either directly transfers the call to a secondary PSAP, like JCPD, or relays the information provided by the caller via a separate phone call to a non-PSAP department, like UOPD.
Carmichael said that before moving emergency dispatch services to Junction City, UOPD normally had to wait to receive these emergency calls and then their office had to relay that information to an officer in the field. JCPD is a secondary PSAP, so by using their dispatch center, Carmichael said JCPD can directly speak with UOPD officers in the field, eliminating the need for multiple phone calls between departments.
“The difference is now you are talking to the dispatcher who at the same time is talking to the police officer in the field,” Carmichael said.
To clarify, Carmichael said that JCPD will only handle UOPD’s emergency calls. Central Lane 9-1-1 will still relay information from non-emergency, UO-related calls they received directly to UOPD. He also said non-emergency callers using UOPD’s direct number are still be able to talk to someone at the UOPD office.
Carmichael said he has no intention of turning UOPD into a secondary PSAP because he says state funding for dispatch centers is “exceptionally limiting.”
“Everyone is fighting for that same tax money,” Carmichael said of state funds tied to dispatch centers. “There is no extra money.”
McIver said in an email that the emergency call boxes on campus are still handled on campus from the UOPD dispatch center.
“Sometimes resolving those situations requires police and/or fire to be dispatched,” McIver said, “in which case JCPD is contacted to dispatch those emergency services.”
Carmichael reiterated multiple times that this dispatch reorganization will not impact service for callers.
“We have a high expectation of service,” Carmichael said. “When our students call, the expectation is that someone is going to answer and someone is going to come help me. We have always lived up to that, and we are currently living up to that. I think there is change on the horizon as we work through this from a collective and professional perspective.”
Correction on Wednesday, March 6: This article originally stated that there was one dispatch center in Lane County, but there are actually three. This article was updated on Wednesday afternoon to reflect that fact.