Dispatch Director Responds To Lunch Break Criticism

Director Maureen Will says an announcement asking dispatchers not to leave to pick up lunch was made in response to an expected influx of calls around the Dec. 14 anniversary and information releases.

Newtown dispatchers work out of the Newtown Police Department, but are not police employees.
Newtown dispatchers work out of the Newtown Police Department, but are not police employees.
Newtown Emergency Communications Director Maureen Will has responded to a post on Newtown Patch that accused the dispatch center's management of denying lunch breaks to dispatchers.

The post, from Rob Stanwich, was entitled "what is going on here?" Stanwich said he found the situation "disturbing and unrealistic" and added he'd bring lunch for dispatchers. But Will said the blog had its facts wrong about the reality for dispatchers at the center and their duties.

Her response, in its entirety:

Before this becomes a dumping ground, let's put all the facts on the table.

First, this is NOT the Newtown Police Dispatch Center; we are merely housed at the police station but are a completely separate entity from them.

Second, the request for bringing your food for the day was in preparation for the increased numbers of calls and walk-in requests for information that we were expecting during this month. In preparation for the release of the report, tapes and the upcoming anniversary date of our town's tragic event, ALL dispatchers were told that leaving the building to pick up lunch was not an option.

It is true that lunch is eaten at their desks and this is the way business has been conducted since this dispatch center opened. We operate with two dispatchers at all times in order to insure the safety the officers, and the timely dispatch of Police, Fire and EMS to any warranted emergency. Having one dispatcher gone for up to 1/2 hour to pick up lunch could compromise operations if the one dispatcher is handling walk-ups and telephone requests for information regarding memorials, where to send items and general information regarding the town and what will be done for the 14th. Throw in constant calls from the media for information request and one dispatcher can be overwhelmed quickly.

The "LUNCH" issue was put into place to prevent any disruption in service and not tax one person. This protocol, similar to the bringing in of extra duty officers for area protection is under review on a daily basis and may or may not be lifted at a time when it is deemed appropriate.

Third, there are labor laws that speak to lunch and the time available. We fall under a very specific category that is also spoken to in the CT Labor laws and I suggest you become very familiar with them before you strike out again ... This mandate was put in place to again insure that the town was safe and secure and that the dispatchers were not overly taxed during this time of increased anxiety and sadness.

Fourth, it was because of what they went through and endured over the past year that this was put in place so I thank you for recognizing what they have been through, now let this lay where it is! If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me — my direct line is 203-270-4296.
Easy December 03, 2013 at 05:10 PM
How dare those dispatchers get hungry while only working 12 hour straight shifts.
rob stanwich December 03, 2013 at 06:19 PM
Why were the comments from the original article removed?
concerned December 03, 2013 at 07:11 PM
from what ive heard its not a very happy place and the main reason is the person in charge of dispatch
Kari Wright Rustici December 03, 2013 at 09:05 PM
Unless you work there, leave it alone. Very east to be an arm chair quarterback.
rob stanwich December 03, 2013 at 09:41 PM
Well since my comments and others keep getting deleted, guess I'll have to blog again.
rob stanwich December 03, 2013 at 09:47 PM
Maureen your response is actually comical. All of a sudden you're so concerned about your dispatchers lol. All this while YOU are trying to outsource the dispatch center to prospect ct and have them all lose their jobs. Oh thats right, they will be able to apply to the new location right?
Easy December 03, 2013 at 09:49 PM
How dare those dispatchers get hungry when working only 12 hour long straight shifts.
rob stanwich December 03, 2013 at 10:16 PM
Kari you dont work there either right? ....waiting for reply
Claudia Cooper December 04, 2013 at 07:04 AM
Is this funded by taxpayer money? If so, then we have a right to expect transparency. There is nothing wrong with an open discussion of operations and procedures, Kari.
rob stanwich December 04, 2013 at 08:23 AM
Claudia you are 100% correct. With taxpayer dollars being spent, you have every right to know whats going on . Well said.
Newtown Resident and Teacher December 04, 2013 at 11:59 AM
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm not seeing anywhere that the dispatchers aren't allowed to eat, just that they need to bring their lunch with them so they're available (in the building) if they're needed during their lunch break. This is extremely common on shift jobs where additional staff needs to remain on call. Generally if someone's lunch break is interrupted they just finish their lunch when the situation is resolved.
Eastend50 December 04, 2013 at 12:46 PM
I don't know what the call volume is of Newtown police/fire/ems 911 communications center is, but if the volume dictates addition minimum staffing requirements of day and 4-12 shifts to 3 personnel on duty, then so be it, and seek additional funding for new personnel. Yes, I agree with Will's policy. It is risky to leave only one person on duty up to half an hour at a time in a 911 center. Does their union contract state they may leave the bldg. for a meal break? If so, then they have to be compensated. Extra days off per month, etc.
Kari Wright Rustici December 11, 2013 at 11:35 AM
Do you work there Claudia or Rob? My point is if you really don't know all the details then you shouldn't assume the worst. I am all for transparency. If you do work there then tell all the details so we have all the facts.


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