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Legislature committee hears Cayuga County E-911 staffing issues

Legislature committee hears Cayuga County E-911 staffing issues

Judicial & Public Safety Committee

Cayuga County E-911 Director Denise Spingler updates the Judicial and Public Safety Committee about the increased volume of discovery requests for dispatch and emergency call recordings on Wednesday.

AUBURN — The Cayuga County E-911 Center is the latest department to ask for additional staffing to handle criminal justice reform requirements.

E-911 Administrator Denise Spingler told county legislators Wednesday night that her staff is struggling to keep up with discovery requests that the district attorney's office and other agencies are required to make.

As of Jan. 1, district attorney's offices have 15 days to turn over all discovery materials in criminal cases to defense attorneys. 

Prosecutors also have to review the materials turned over to them by agencies like the 911 center, Cayuga County Senior Assistant District Attorney Christopher Valdina said during the meeting.

The 911 center has to collect anywhere between 20 to 100 pieces of audio for every arrest, from a traffic stop to a felony charge. Depending on the length or severity of a case, that process could take 45 minutes or two hours.

"Last year they weren't called discovery requests, but the DA's office would ask us for material for cases on any given month and we'd get maybe five to eight requests a month," she said.

The center received about 11 requests for audio discovery material in January and February of 2019, Spingler reported to the Legislature.

But, last month, they completed 78 discovery requests and 32 in the first two weeks of February. "No matter what the crime is — they're being requested," she said. "This is a full-time job, so it's become certainly a burden on us."

Though Spingler didn't pose any resolutions for the Judicial and Public Safety Committee to consider, she raised a request for an additional hire dedicated to fulfilling the requests.

"I think it's an unreasonable request to continue to manage these," she told the legislators. With one vacancy and another pending, Spingler said the center currently had a backlog of 10 discovery requests.

Spingler and the dispatchers, as well as the deputy administrator and supervisor, work on the discovery requests. But the workload calls for a full-time position, she said.

Another challenge is the need to be familiar with dispatcher language and the modes of audio transmissions. "You have to know what you're looking for," Spingler said.

Her idea was to seek to fill a position like a records clerk, which is a title that already exists with the Civil Service Commission.

Legislator Ryan Foley, D-Auburn, suggested Spingler request to hire another dispatcher who would also be able to assist with high volumes of 911 calls — a possibility Legislator Keith Batman, D-Springport, was wary of.

"If it's going to be full time, it's got to be full time," Batman said.

Spingler said that, while she was hoping the new state-mandated provisions regarding discovery were going to change, she's "not sure that's going to happen."

Staff writer Mary Catalfamo can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or Find her on Twitter @mrycatalfamo.


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Crime/courts reporter

I cover criminal court, public safety and the Cayuga County government for The Citizen and You can also find my health and entertainment features online and in the Lake Life section of the paper.

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