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April 27, 2004
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Food for Thought: Dispatchers from South Yuma County, Mexico Meet in Person Over Dinner to Improve Quality of Work


By Jacob Lopez, Yuma Sun, AZ

SAN LUIS, Ariz. — The dinner table is considered one of the best places to open lines of communication.

So, following that line of thought, personnel from the San Luis, Ariz., Police Department did just that Wednesday afternoon — they cooked up some carne asada and then sat down for dinner with police dispatchers from Mexico and neighboring south county communities.

Dalia Matus, communications officer for the San Luis Police Department, enters data into the department''s new dispatch computer system on Wednesday. Photo by Jacob Lopez
And before the last bite, the police/fire and emergency dispatchers from Somerton, San Luis and San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., were able to meet each other in person and get to know one another at the same time.

San Luis Police Chief Heriberto Bejarano said the main purpose for Wednesday''s meeting was to build a relationship between the south county dispatchers and the San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., dispatchers so they can better do their jobs and assist in communicating with each other.

Also Wednesday, San Luis police officials unveiled the department''s new dispatch center with an official grand-opening ceremony.

Bejarano said the dispatch center contains state-of-the-art computer equipment and technology that will provide the department room for growth over the next 10 years.

Bejarano said the new technology better safeguards the department against hackers, and he said information can be obtained by the system substantially quicker than the old “terminal” system.

It also includes a digital recording system where up to six months of telephone and radio calls can be saved indefinitely on a CD, while the old system used audio tapes, he said. The system also includes up to 25 phone lines that can allow for more police services to the community such as a graffiti hot line.

The center''s new software technology is called the Public Safety Software Series and is made by Information Technologies, Inc. out of St. Louis.

Chuck O''Reilly, the southwest regional representative for ITI, said the software series will make the San Luis police dispatch center more effective and efficient as it is the first department in the state to receive this technology.

"We''re just so proud to work with such a progressive department," O''Reilly said.

The 20 dispatchers from San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., San Luis, Ariz., and Somerton police and fire departments visited the new center and had the chance to meet with their counterparts.

Emergency police and fire dispatcher Veronica Arias, from the Rio Colorado police department, said the Mexican and Arizonan dispatching methods are different, and the meeting gave them the opportunity to learn a little about each others'' systems.

Bejarano said it is important for dispatchers to meet each other in person, rather than to just know each other from their voices over the telephone or radio frequency.

"They communicate with each other via phone and radio, but they''ve never met," Bejarano said. "It''s just to help them put a face with the voice, and maybe build a little camaraderie."

He said when Mexican authorities and south county authorities are searching for a suspect who — for example — fled across the border, this kind of relationship could help them go the extra mile in locating a suspect since they''ve met already and have developed some trust.

"If we don''t have this type of communication, a lot of danger could be placed on our community and vice versa," Bejarano said.

Martin Marquez, Mexican liaison officer for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said meeting each other in person helps build a trust, which improves their working environment and enables them to better help each other when needed.

"Get to know each other," Marquez told the dispatchers. "We have to take care of each other because the most important thing along a border is communication."
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