Opinion

Our Voice: Sense of urgency needed for police dispatch problem

It seems like we've had a rash of incidents involving guns in the community, often with our law enforcement officials in the line of fire.

A disturbed man in Pasco shot up his home and his neighborhood for hours before he was finally killed by police.

It was a dangerous situation in the middle of a residential neighborhood at a time of day when many folks were home.

What made it all the more hazardous was the fact that the police who arrived from various jurisdictions to assist couldn't communicate with each other.

An off-duty sheriff's deputy confronted the man, who then shot at him. Pasco police were first on the scene but couldn't tell Benton County deputies to set up a perimeter because of communication problems.

The man holed up in his house for the hours-long standoff and intermittently fired at police.

One Kennewick Police Department commander arriving on the scene had a bullet come within a foot of his head.

Officers cleared the neighborhood and blocked off streets, but the communication breakdown put them and the public at risk.

They also ran out of radios that would have allowed them to communicate on the same system. Officers said innocent people were put in jeopardy because of the situation.

It's not news that something needs to be done to bridge the communication gap. It has been an issue for years and cities and counties agreed to hire a consultant to formulate a plan last year.

That consultant has been working on a consolidated dispatch center and regional emergency communications and records system for the Tri-Cities.

City councils in Kennewick, Richland and Pasco and commissioners in Benton and Franklin counties will consider the plan. Officials hope to have a decision made soon.

"I'm concerned for my officers out on the street who can't communicate properly," said Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger.

That quote was from 2011. It's 2014 and we have the same issues. Our elected officials owe it to our community and our law enforcement professionals to fix the matter and fix it soon.

"This situation ... really brought it to a head in our view and also the other chiefs in the area," Metzger said of the recent incident in west Pasco.

We're just plain lucky that no police or bystanders were injured in the standoff.

It highlighted the need to get a solid system in place that will allow for the communications needed to keep police and civilians safe in evolving and dangerous situations with multiple jurisdictions responding.

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