At a recent Saturday morning forum held for city of Ann Arbor Democratic Party city council candidates, participants were asked by the moderator to characterize the relationship between the city of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. None of their responses highlighted some parade examples of existing collaboration between the two governmental units: a combined city/county office of community development; and a shared data center with a shared full-time position to manage it.
Also not cited as an example of possible future city/county collaboration was police dispatching. However, the topic did at least receive a passing mention by Ward 3 incumbent Stephen Kunselman, who told the audience that his grandmother was a police dispatcher in the late 1950s for the East Ann Arbor police department.
A recent city press release – sent out the Wednesday before the June 11 candidate forum – described a renewed effort to consolidate Ann Arbor’s 911 police dispatch functions with the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.
So The Chronicle sat down with Ann Arbor chief of police Barnett Jones and Washtenaw County sheriff Jerry Clayton to walk through the possible consolidation, under which the city would contract with the county for dispatch service. Based on that interview, it’s clear that it’s not just talk.
The city and county dispatchers are already working in the same building in the same room – on the second floor of Fire Station #1, across Fifth Avenue from the new municipal center at Fifth and Huron. Clayton has developed a staffing model for implementation. And over the next few weeks, Jones will be sitting down with the police officers union – dispatchers are members – to discuss the proposal. Jones said that from the standpoint of collective bargaining, a consolidated dispatch operation could not be blocked by the union.
But Jones and Clayton will not have the final say. That decision will be made by the Ann Arbor city council and the Washtenaw County board of commissioners.