Portales police upgrades communications

Alisa Boswell: Freedom New Mexico Travis Hardin, of Yucca Telecom, sets up the computer system in what will soon be the new dispatch center at the Portales Police Department. Emergency Management Director Keith Wattenberger said the new system will allow dispatchers to do their job more quickly and efficiently.

Alisa Boswell

Big changes are in store for Portales police officers and firefighters in the form of a new dispatch system.

According to Portales Emergency Management Director Keith Wattenbarger, instead of one tightly enclosed room for dispatch officers and dispatch equipment, there will now be three rooms for the upgraded system, which is currently being installed.

“This will far exceed what we need to run things,” Wattenbarger said. “It doubles our power supply. We have more space, better equipment, an improved system and a more secure area.”

Wattenbarger said the largest room will be for dispatch personnel and will include six computer screens directly in front of each of the two dispatchers on duty.

He said the screens include, radio calls, city mapping, technical information (textual information of where a call originated), criminal background information, report writing system and the Internet.

Along with the computers, the room will house a big screen TV, showing the emergency alert system.

“We had good equipment before but we couldn’t always push it to its fullest extent,” Wattenbarger said. “A person who is in a better space and better equipped, functions better. We are going to have a cleaner, safer and more professional environment.”

Portales Police Deputy Chief Lonnie Berry said dispatch equipment is supposed to be upgraded every five years and it has been about eight years since Portales dispatch has had an upgrade.

“There are certain things you can’t change for dispatch. It’s always going to be a high stress job,” Berry said. “The best thing we can do is provide the best environment for them to work in.”

Communications and Dispatch Officer Dina Clark said more than anything, dispatch personnel are excited about the space improvement.

Wattenbarger and Clark both said in the old space, the two dispatchers could not turn around without bumping into one another.

Along with more space, dispatchers will have wireless headsets allowing them to be more mobile.

“It will be different but nice,” Clark said. “We’re going to have all information here in front of us instead of spread out.”

Wattenbarger said technicians began building on the new room Monday and plan to be finished Friday. Dispatchers will begin training in the new equipment the following week.