Palo Alto County Public Safety Center Update
Substandard Facilities Susceptible to Failure
Today’s focus on the proposed Palo Alto County Public Safety Center will include information on the Communication Center and support areas. Please go to https://paloalto sheriff.com/public-safety-facility/ for nearly 100 pages of information, including many pictures, of the current structure. Tours of the existing facility were originally planned, but COVID made that event impossible.
60 percent voter approval is needed to allow this project to continue. If you feel this project is essential for your family’s safety, to reduce county liability from inmate and employee injuries, to avoid equipment failure and shutdown, and to provide essential law enforcement, dispatch and jail functions well into the future, please vote yes now.
The 911 Dispatch Control room is located in the old Sheriff’s residential section of the facility. There are two dispatch stations located in the room. The one workstation has the monitors for the cameras observing the inmate cells and Courthouse security system along with the law enforcement software system, 911 system, state and federal computer access system and administrative phones. This room is congested, to say the least, and additional space is not available for future needs. The space does not meet ADA accessible requirements and has several entrances to the room making it difficult to secure. Access would be through the visitor visitation section of the building or the public access point of the Sheriff’s Office.
There is a transaction window for assisting in handling the public services. The 911 Dispatch center is staffed at all times. Centers require a small kitchenette and restroom in the center as dispatchers can’t go far from their station. Dispatchers assist the public and deputies in no contact orders, arrest warrants, stolen articles, missing persons, gun permit applications, probation to the Sheriff, Sex Offender Registry, driver license requests, among others, and have all the mailboxes for the staff.
The Control Room is remote from the jail which leads to concerns regarding the response time in the case of a suicide attempt or disturbance in the jail. The Control Room does not have secure doors protecting the dispatchers from disturbances in the hallway, booking room or before inmates are locked in the jail. Intercom capabilities to the jail is minimal creating additional work for coordination with the staff to go to the jail to respond to requests or problems.
The windows and walls are not bulletproof so the staff is unprotected. Most of the wiring and additional electrical wiring had to be surface mounted. There is no break area with a sink or water. The dispatchers have to leave the area to use the kitchen or use the restroom to clean dishes or to fill the coffee machine. The direct access to the booking and jail support area is a security concern.