Comptroller: Tennessee Highway Patrol dispatch system shows ‘inadequacies and inefficiencies’

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – An audit by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office found that the dispatch system used by the Tennessee Highway Patrol has a number of, “inadequacies and inefficiencies,” which could affect public safety.

The findings come after a review of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, which oversees THP’s dispatch system.

Among the issues detailed in the comptroller’s report, findings show that THP’s dispatch system is at an increased risk of dropped calls, cannot receive call information, or receive calls from those who are deaf or hearing impaired.

“When you’re having to repeat information, or when the dispatcher perhaps loses your call or you can’t speak anymore,” said John Dunn with the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, “those are limitations that could impact public safety.”

As part of the audit, the Tennessee Comptroller’s office conducted walkthroughs at two of THP’s dispatch facilities and even surveyed several dispatchers.

“Many of them responded with a similar complaint that they weren’t able to get information as quickly as they would have liked to serve the public,” said Dunn, “so even clearly the dispatchers realized there’s a situation here that could be addressed.”

Currently, the Tennessee Advanced Communication Network, which is owned by the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, has four master sites.

Knox County oversees operations for East Tennessee and has the same equipment as the other sites.

Dunn said calls are first sent to local 911 dispatchers, before they’re transferred to the THP sites, which then relay information to highway patrol.

“When those calls are transferred to THP dispatch, there’s no information given,” he said, “they don’t know who the caller is, what the call number is what the location of that call number is and that can be a hindrance.”

The audit also found the system is not capable of receiving calls from communication devices for those with hearing impairments.

Department of Safety and Homeland Security Wireless Communications Director Arnold Hooper says the department is developing a request for purchase for a NG911 system.

In the meantime, they’re using a clearinghouse to receive data.

“If the local 911 does stay open and keep the line open, we can actually get some of that data through the clearninghouse,” said Hooper, “so we’re making huge leaps and we’re at least able to access some of that data in the interim.”

Hooper said it could be 12 to 18 months before the NG911 system is up and running.

You can view the comptroller’s report on the THP dispatch system by clicking here and scrolling to page 37.

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