A group of Lake County law enforcement officials is publicly urging elected officials to stop squabbling and line up behind the creation of a unified E-911 public safety communications network.
Senior ATF Special Agent David Coulson, chairman of the One Region Public Safety Committee, said efforts to merge 17 community-based police and fire dispatch centers into a single network are being hindered by some suburban communities wanting two separate networks, one for communities with higher crime rates in the north and another for the south suburbs.
Coulson said that runs counter to recent efforts to attack crime through a coordinated, regional approach.
"The momentum and advances currently being made by law enforcement in Northwest Indiana should not be hampered by the duplicity of efforts as well as services," Coulson wrote in a prepared statement Friday afternoon.
Coulson said he, Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller, East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker and County Prosecutor Bernard Carter's office have been studying ways to improve law enforcement tactics in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties as part of One Region's effort to promote official cooperation.
They support a state law mandating Lake to complete the merger of currently independent E-911 centers by next year.
However, county officials had made little headway in their effort over the past five years until recently when they hired an E-911 county director and drafted an interlocal agreement in which all city, town and county officials agree to finance the consolidation.
Cedar Lake, Dyer, Lowell, St. John and Schererville are balking at the cost, which includes more than $36 million to build and equip the network and $11 million annually from cities and towns to meet the salaries and other annual operational costs. They prefer a south suburban network they claim would be cheaper and more efficient.
Coulson said Friday of the two-network proposal, "It's the north against the south going on. We have the Mason-Dixon line running through the county. We are an embarrassment."
There also has been disagreement between municipal police and fire chiefs on the one hand who want Motorola Solutions of Schaumburg, Ill., to provide the electronics, based on the endorsement of Motorola by the state's Quality Purchasing Agreement department, and county officials on the other hand who want to follow the more time-consuming process of seeking competitive bidding among several electronics providers.
Coulson wrote, "... the Public Safety Committee respectfully urges those policy-makers ultimately responsible for seeing this project through to push forward with one unified dispatch center and to also utilize the State of Indiana Quantity Purchasing Agreement (QPA) to expedite the process."