News : Emergency Calls Dropped at ISP Du Quoin Call Center
July 24, 2012 -- Gov. Pat Quinn’s Illinois State Police communications consolidation reportedly hit a snag Monday when phone lines were "up and down" all day in Du Quoin.
The chief steward for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees telecommunications workers at Du Quoin, Cathy Bencini, said calls were dropped throughout the day, but the state was working to fix the problem by the afternoon.
"We weren’t able to get some emergency calls," Bencini said. "That could have been critical."
Bencini said dispatchers "did what they were supposed to do, but I don’t think the system could handle" the increased number of calls.
Bencini also said the phone system did not have working caller-ID and lacked a global positioning satellite system, issues she said the state was going to address.
Illinois State Police had 21 localized call centers before the number was trimmed to four last week. Offices in Effingham, Carmi and Ullin were folded into Du Quoin.
Bencini said the move left the call center short-staffed, with 16 telecommunications employees doing the work of 27 dispatchers.
Bencini said remaining Du Quoin dispatchers were "being forced to work 12-hour shifts" with overtime to make up for the lack of manpower.
"We’re afraid for public safety and trooper safety," Bencini said.
Initial estimates stated state police dispatch employees would be reduced by 60 statewide. Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said in a July 16 report from Kurt Erickson of The Southern Illinoisan’s Springfield Bureau that only four employees had been laid off.
Bencini said three employees slated to transfer to Du Quoin were given pink slips, but she heard they would be offered their old jobs.
Anders Lindall, AFSCME Council 31 spokesman, said dispatchers raised concerns about potential difficulties in increased calls, as well as a lack of familiarity with a larger geographical area.
"In the work they do, a matter of minutes can be the difference between life and death," Lindall said. "(Monday) reiterated the concerns of telecommunicators of having proper infrastructure and a phone system that works. In this case, that just wasn’t there."
Illinois State Police spokespeople did not respond to multiple email and voicemail messages.
Calls to the Du Quoin call center’s non-emergency line were not answered and no voicemail option was given.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Friday, July 27, 2012
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