Mayor going to Commission for dispatch call numbers now

Published 9:24 am Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. will start getting his information on 911 call volumes and communication center operations from the commission that oversees it.

“I’ve got a list of things I’m going to be asking from them in writing and from this day forward, I’m going through the E911 Commission and ask for the information and not from (911 director) Mr. (Chuck) Tate, because I think it’s gotten personal and I think it would be in my best interest to ask the commission for what I need,” said Flaggs, a commission member.

“OK,” Tate said Wednesday, adding the commissioners get their information from him.

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Flaggs’ comments come two days after he responded to criticism about his Nov. 13 visit to the 911 Communications Center.

The Friday tour and visit to the communications center were part of Flaggs’ plan to visit city departments and spend the day learning how they operate. Previous visits included the city’s water and gas administration, working with a sewer department crew and a community services crew. He also visited community development. He had scheduled three hours for the 911 visit and stayed an hour.

He was criticized by dispatchers, who said he needed to be at the center through a 12-hour shift to get an idea of center operations, and for not putting on a headset and listening to the radio traffic the dispatchers hear.

Flaggs in the past has questioned the high volume of calls dispatchers receive during their shifts, and has opposed Tate’s request to hire more dispatchers, although after the visit he said he would consider adding money for two dispatchers in the city’s 2017 budget.

The mayor tried to validate his short stay at the 911 center saying he believed the activity at the center was staged just for him, and adding he believed the calls were planned and the responses by dispatchers scripted and coached.

Tate denied the claim.

Making a false 911 call is misdemeanor punished by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to a year in jail. A second offense is a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and three years in jail.

Flaggs clarified his definition of “staged.”

“What I’m just simply saying is that I was not able to quantify — I was not able to look and see if they (the calls) were emergency calls or just calls (for other information),” he said. “There’s a lot of collaboration between the volunteer fire departments and 911. They overlap, they do the same work and everything.”

Flaggs said Wednesday 911 dispatchers gave him a call report showing 74 calls in the one hour he was at the center.

He said city IT director Billy Gordon and Brian Boykin, Flaggs’ administrative assistant, were watching the screens with him and “we could not see (where) there were 74 calls … that’s a lot of calls.

He also believed the length of time he spent at the center was irrelevant.

Flaggs said he had toured the Tupelo communications center and had information from the 911 Center here, adding, “I didn’t see a reason for me to stay three hours or eight hours.”

He said he refused the headset, because, “I didn’t go to hear the conversation. I went to see the operations.”

“To the best of my knowledge, there was nothing faked. I don’t know how you could fake it,” Tate said. “All I can tell you is I had certainly nothing to do with anything and to the best of my knowledge, neither did anybody else. We keep everything above board. The numbers all come out of the database. You don’t have a chance to manipulate those.

“I’m through commenting about this,” he said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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