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Dispatcher resigns, new officers on board

The Lovell Chronicle of Lovell, Wyoming

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Lovell Police Department

Just when it seemed like the dust was about to settle, another dispatcher, Whitney Dodd, resigned from the Lovell Police Department. Dodd has accepted a full-time position with the CARES organization (see related story).

Dodd said, at first she hoped she could continue to help the department as a "relief dispatcher" one shift per week, but when it became clear that much more of her time would be needed, she decided to resign and focus on her new position with CARES.

Dodd worked part-time for the LPD for about a year and a half, while at the same time working as a victims' advocate at CARES. She said she really enjoyed dispatching, but felt she would be spread too thin with the demands of her new position and family commitments and the hours required at the LPD.

Dodd is the fourth dispatcher to resign in less than one month. Others included former head dispatcher Ron Salyer, Aaron Harris and JJ Callahan. With Salyer and Harris already gone and Callahan and Dodd departing the end of this week, the department is left with only two full-time dispatchers, including Jennifer Massey, who has been promoted to head dispatcher, and Angie Morely-Brown, who was put on full-time status recently, and relief dispatcher Mary Alice Ewart, who works a minimum number of hours.

According to Mayor Angel

Montanez, two dispatchers were interviewed and tested on Friday but "some problems needed to be worked out" before they could be hired. The problem is that one of the prospective candidates is Massey's sister and it is in violation of Wyoming State statute (nepotism 9-13-104) for a public employee to "supervise or manage a family member." The other prospective employee is the son of Dan Anderson, who has been acting in a supervisory role over the department, while the search continues for a new chief of police.

Montanez noted that, though Anderson has been put in a position to supervise temporarily, for the most part he isn't particularly active in that role. He was unable to say who is in charge at this point, without a chief on board.

Montanez said, though the department is still strongly considering the dispatch candidates, it will continue to advertise the positions and will most likely have another testing session in the near future.

Some of the more experienced dispatchers have made themselves available to answer questions but a memo signed by Anderson and Montanez sent to current employees specifically forbids them from entering the police department.

Montanez said he was unaware that the former employees had offered to help and defended the memo stating confidentiality issues require non-employees to stay out of the dispatch area.

"Once you leave, you are no longer an employee, and you are no longer cleared for access to the confidential information in the dispatch area," he said.

In the case of former employee Ron Salyer, he actually does have that clearance, as dispatch supervisor for the Big Horn County Sheriff's Department.

A special line was set up this week, allowing the sheriff's department to act as back up. According to Lovell Fire Chief Jim Minchow, the line has been in the works for a while, for just this reason. He emphasized that, though he prefers the fire calls to be dispatched through Lovell, he is all for having two dispatch centers available in the event that one goes down. He said this is a situation where that second dispatch center is needed, so he is pleased that some of the dispatch calls can be handled in Basin.

Minchow said the two remaining dispatchers in Lovell will work regular shifts during the week, but the sheriff's department will handle calls the rest of the time, including weekends until more dispatchers are hired and trained. That training can take several weeks, depending on the experience level of the individual hire. In the meantime, LPD officer Matt Koritnik has also been "filling in" as dispatch operator on a temporary basis.

Minchow said the system has been tested extensively over the past few weeks and is fully functional. He said communication, so far, between those in Basin and those in Lovell is working well.

Montanez said he was fine with the arrangement, noting that the Lovell Police Department has helped out the sheriff's department in a similar capacity in the past when their system has gone down.

POLICE OFFICER STAFFING

Montanez said with new officers Luke Welch and David Blankenship onboard and Koritnik on full-time, all positions are now filled in the department. He wasn't able to elaborate where the new officers were in their training or when they would be prepared to patrol alone. New officers normally are "field trained" by another officer and require academy training. Depending on the level of experience of the officer, the training process can take months. In the case of Blankenship, Montanez said he hopes it will be shorter since he is certified in another state and al ready has some experience.

Montanez said he would like to see Welch complete his academy training as soon as possible. The academy training requires the officer to train at the police academy, which is located in Douglas, for several weeks. He said he wasn't sure if Blankenship was required to attend the academy, since he was certified in another state.

The police department has also suffered many losses in the past several months, acting without a chief and losing some of its more senior officers, most notably Lt. Noe Garcia and Sgt. Steve Allred. The department has also lost a number of its part-time officers and has one officer, Randy Pine, on medical leave. Though its been a rough road, Montanez spoke positively about the future.



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Original Publication Date: August 13, 2015



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