KATY (Covering Fort Bend News) – Complaints from Katy-area homeowners associations and first responders may lead to the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office being stripped of its 911 emergency dispatch duties if Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers gets his way.
All 911 calls are dispatched by the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office and the system was seemingly working without complaints until Jan. 1, 2019. That’s when the Sheriff’s Office, according to its own memo, changed its policy and stopped dispatching 911 calls to local constable’s offices, even when the calls are in the constable’s contract patrol area where they can respond faster than the SO deputies. The change, according to Katy-area residents, has drastically increased the law enforcement response time in unincorporated Katy/Fort Bend County.
A Sheriff’s Office internal memo, provided to Covering Katy News by Falcon Point HOA President Robert Serrett, states the following:
“Beginning 1-1-2019 calls for service in supplemental patrol areas covered by Fort Bend County Constables will be dispatched to a SO patrol Deputy and not the contract constable as is currently the practice.”
At a Friday afternoon meeting of local HOA board members, Commissioner Meyers and County Judge KP George heard the complaints of concerned Katy-area residents who live in unincorporated Katy/Fort Bend County.
“If I call 911 I want someone there fast,” said resident Wes Noonan.
Internal disagreements between the Sheriff’s Office and the Precinct 3 Constable’s Office have been simmering for months, but it was not until the Sheriff’s Office changed its dispatch policy that residents say the bickering has become a public safety issue.
“If someone is going to use 911 dispatch as a political tool then that tool should be taken away from them,” Noonan told Meyers and George.
The Sheriff’s Office denies there is a political agenda. The SO claims that Precinct 3 Constables often leave their contract areas and send so many deputies to Sheriff’s Office calls that it becomes a public safety issue with too many units respond to minor incidents.
The Sheriff’s Office also denies that its new policy has caused a slower than normal response, but Serrett says he’s getting complaints from residents in Falcon Point. Constable Wayne Thompson said the same thing in a memo sent to local HOAs on Jan. 23, 2018.
“Since that time (Jan. 1) our deputies are not being dispatched to calls within their contract areas when they are on duty,” Thompson wrote. “I believe that this is a disservice to the residents and the contract areas we provide service to. We have received many questions and complaints regarding this,” Serrett said.
Commissioner Meyers told HOA leaders that they aren’t the only people complaining.
“Our fire marshall and our head of EMS came to us and complained about the level of service they were getting from dispatch,” Meyers said.
Meyers says his first solution was to ask the Sherriff’s Office to revert back to the way they were dispatching calls before 2019. That has not happened, as the Sheriff’s Office’s claims, there is not a problem with response times.
Now Meyers is moving to the next step, studying how to take dispatch responsibility away from Sheriff Troy Nehls.
“My office researched how large counties like Fort Bend County handle dispatch,” Commissioner Meyers said. ”
Meyers says he has found that it’s very common for public safety dispatch to be handled by a separate independent county entity that does not report to the sheriff or other first responder agencies.
“Their sole job is dispatch,” Meyers said. He believes it’s time for Fort Bend County to move in that direction too.
“My solution is that we create a department that is for the sole purpose of dispatch,” Meyers said. “That way we eliminate all these disputes that we now are having between one department and another department.”
County Judge KP George has been in office less than six weeks and is still coming up to speed on many of the county’s issues, but he seemed open to Meyers’ suggestion.
“We recognize that it’s an issue,” he said.
See supporting documentation below – The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office memo mentioned in the above story.