Politics

Fort Bend County Law Enforcement Agencies Fight Over 911 Dispatch Duties

The question is whether the public is actually affected by the dispute.

Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George wants to review the county’s 911 dispatch operations after the sheriff’s office changed its policy.

All calls for service now go to sheriff’s deputies first, even when constables who are providing additional patrols in neighborhoods may be closer.

Precinct 3 Constable Wayne Thompson has taken issue with the new policy, saying it will lead to longer response times.

He said he has heard complaints from residents and homeowners associations that are used to having their contract constables respond to calls.

The Republican commissioner for Precinct 3, Andy Meyers, would like to see the sheriff’s office give up dispatch responsibilities and create a separate entity to avoid these issues, according to online publication Covering Katy, which first reported on the issue.

On Monday, the Fort Bend County Democratic Party joined the fray with a press conference outside the Fort Bend County Justice Center.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for over 34 years, and even a first-year rookie knows incidents that turn from minor to major only take seconds,” Eric Fagan, who wants to challenge Republican Sheriff Troy Nehls in 2020, said. “A person who calls for 911 response, they don’t care who shows up. They just need a law enforcement officer.”

He said the policy change puts residents’ safety in jeopardy.

The sheriff’s office countered with stats: times actually went down in January, when the change went into effect.

Chief Deputy David Marcaurele said it took county deputies on average 13.39 minutes to respond to 911 calls in January, compared to 13.59 minutes in the period from July through December.

“We are committed to public safety and always strive to look for ways to improve our delivery of services and will continue to do so even when others only look to politicize actions,” Marcaurele said in an emailed statement.

But Thompson is not convinced.

“It’s hard to say in two months what this year will look like, based on two months of doing this new policy,” the constable said. “But that’s not going to be what it looks like in another eight months, if we continue on this path.”

He said constables continue to respond to calls that they pick up from their in-car screens or radio, but it’s easy to miss one if they are not directly dispatched.

Thompson suspects political reasons behind the move, saying more calls benefit Sheriff Nehls, who has previously expressed a desire to run for Congress in 2020.

The sheriff’s office says it was simply a procedural change, initiated by Chief Deputy Marcaurel, to emphasize contract constables are meant to supplement, not replace, sheriff’s deputies.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters and the Houston Press Club. Florian is a native of Germany. His studies...

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