Manchester Police Department unveils state-of-the-art dispatch center

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Apr. 25, 2013
The interior of the Bear Cat, built by Lenco of Massachusetts, which was on display during the launching of the new Manchester Police Department state-of-the-art dispatch center. Photo by Christian Mysliwiec.
The interior of the Bear Cat, built by Lenco of Massachusetts, which was on display during the launching of the new Manchester Police Department state-of-the-art dispatch center. Photo by Christian Mysliwiec.

In the wake of horrific mass murders that have occurred in both Connecticut and Massachusetts within the past six months, public safety is foremost on the minds of town officials. In Manchester, the police department has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to modernizing its security response with the launch of a new state-of-the art dispatch center within the department's East Middle Turnpike station.

“The 911 dispatch center is a dramatic upgrade from our cramped quarters and aging technologies in the old room,” said Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy at a ribbon cutting ceremony held Tuesday, April 23. The dispatch center was operational at 5 a.m. on Wednesday, April 24.

“This system is completely digital,” said MPD Communications Supervisor Jim White. The core technology of the previous dispatch center used “button and lead” radios dating back to 1980 and 1981, and only seated four dispatchers. The new center can seat up to six, with the potential to expand to eight. Using network communication lines, dispatchers can remotely control door locks and intercoms in the station. Every workstation includes access to GIS maps showing the current location of every police unit in town. The room is lined with sound deadening material and the carpet is designed to prevent static, which could damage the electrical equipment.

White explained that the center uses VoiP technology, which means that if the system went down in the event of an emergency or if the police station had to be evacuated, they could go to South Windsor or Vernon's departments and use their consoles to transmit on Manchester's radios.

According to Montiminy, the dispatch center was two years in the making, and the department hopes to use it for the next 20 to 30 years. It was designed with the intent of future expansion. “Our hope is that not only will this room serve the community for years to come but will also provide the capability to host a regional center in the future,” he said.

Prior to the ribbon cutting, officers held a viewing in the station parking lot of the regional communication van and the “Bear Cat” armored vehicle. Lieutenant Timothy Edwards of the South Windsor Police Department gave tours of the state-of-the-art communication van, the Capitol Region Emergency Services Vehicle. It is housed in South Windsor's new fire station, but any department in the capital region can use it. The van has full Internet access and its own server and allows connection for up to 20 devices. The rear area of the interior has dispatch communications workstations and a crisis negotiations area. The front has a mini conference area with phones. Large screen monitors display a live feed from a camera mounted on a 40-foot exterior mast, giving the occupants a view of the surrounding vicinity. There is a television on which staff can watch news channels, to stay up to date on situational developments. “Intel is critical and sometimes news folks get it before we do,” said Edwards.

According to Captain Bill Darby of MPD, the Bear Cat is an armored personnel carrier built by Lenco of Massachusetts. It was purchased through the Capitol Region Council of Governments, Connecticut, and is one of three in Hartford County. Both Hartford and West Hartford have one, and Manchester, being the largest town east of the Connecticut River in the county, received the third in May 2012. Like the communications van, any department in the region can utilize it.

It is designed to protect officers when they respond to scenes where gunfire is involved. “We use it for our regional tactical teams for conducting search warrants or barricaded subjects calls,” said Darby. “It allows officers to approach the house and then deploy from the vehicle, which gives a safer environment for officers.”

It was used by C.R.E.S.T., the Capital Region Emergency Services Team, in the high-profile drug roundup in New London earlier this month. Bear Cat vehicles were also used prominently in the manhunt for the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombing.

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