By Karen McKillips
Former Winnebago Co. 911 Telecommunicator
I have recently resigned from Winnebago County Sheriff’s Dept./911 center. My husband is retiring this week from his job after 35 years, and we are relocating to the state of Florida.
I know most of you reading this have no idea about what is happening in your county with public safety and the mismanagement of your tax dollars within this department I certainly do not want to portray that I know everything about all facets of this entity, but what I do know is what has happened inside the 911 Communication center at 4511 N. Main St., since its opening in July 2006. The PSAP (public safety answering point) that your elected sheriff pushed to build, open and run…separating HIS police dispatch and 911 call center from city of Rockford, is completely imploding.
This sheriff has put your public safety in a state of great concern. He has let the staffing at the 911 center critically dwindle down to below necessary staffing to effectively and safely run a 911 center for well over a year now. Your county board has budgeted the money for the 21 positions there from the day this center opened, adequate to minimally staff this center, but your sheriff refuses to hire, train and maintain adequate staffing within to safely, and I mean SAFELY, operate a PSAP center. At the end of this month, we will be short seven employees in 4-1/4 years. he has only hired one dispatcher replacement, and that was over a year ago. We are short six employees, one full shift of workers.
So what, you say? We have bigger fish to fry in this county with crime? What does that have to do with anything? Let me tell you why this is critical. This center has to remain open 24/7 for all of our safety living in this county. We, as dispatchers, have to work 12- to 16-hour shifts to cover the staffing shortage. When a person has to work this type of “high stress” job, wouldn’t you agree that this person could become tired and less effective at their job after 12 hours? Not as “on-the-ball” while dealing with your immediate police emergencies, your medical emergencies because of being overworked? Doesn’t that concern you? IT SHOULD, AND YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO WHAT I AM SAYING. What you should be asking is: What is our elected sheriff doing with this money? Why isn’t he staffing the MOST important part of his department, the 911 call center where ALL public safety begins?
Your 911-center employees run police dispatch radio tacs, answer all 911 lines, all non-emergency lines, internal sheriff’s department lines, private radio tac lines…all at the same time with fewer employees in the center…somebody has to answer them and respond. What does that mean? It means all remaining 911 employees have to pick up the slack with the employee shortages and are seriously getting beat up, over stressed, overworked because of it…NO days off, day after day of 12-hour mandates to work on their days off, stress beyond explanation causing little sleep, working day shifts, and night shifts, on and on and on…and your elected Sheriff doesn’t care.
When his supervision staff from the 911 center comes to him for over two years regarding this HUGE issue there….he presses the MUTE button and does absolutely NOTHING. He doesn’t care that even officer safety is at risk; he doesn’t care that you are short squads on the streets to protect and serve YOU. He doesn’t care that we don’t have enough call takers in there to answer your 911 calls or your non-emergency calls. He leaves your streets short of squads patrolling and staying present in your communities. He takes those squads/deputies off the streets, out of your communities and places them to be present at social events, county fairs and media events…making you think and believe…that he has YOU in mind for your public safety. I’ m telling you the REAL deal. Many of you taxpayers call and complain about lack of squad presence in your area. Now you know the truth about where they are when they are not patrolling your area. And when you call and complain about how long it takes for a squad to arrive at your emergency or non-emergency. It’s STAFF SHORTAGE…he doesn’ t care about that. Listen up, people, get to the polls and vote him out.
It’s a money/numbers game. He has to play his cards wisely. If it wasn’t, he would hire the employees needed to effectively staff his 911 center because again, your county board has budgeted this money for staffing at the 911 center. It’s in the budget, it’s there…what is he doing with this money, we ask? Why can’t we get help in here? Somebody, anybody, taxpayers please listen to our cry!
Current Sheriff Richard Meyers is a politican who surrounds himself in nepotism. Ever look up the meaning of that word? I did… Nepotism is favoritism granted to relatives or friends, with no regard to merit. Figure it out for yourself. Nepotism is against the law here in Winnebago county. Why is it allowed? Wouldn’ t they arrest you for something unlawful you were doing? Richard Meyers is ever vigilant his every waking hour, structuring his sheriff’s department to keep his immediate family and friends in line for his job/ income…when he retires one day. Hmmmmm! Richard Meyers has no time to think about public safety…he’s thoroughly exhausted after his full day of keeping all his “ducks” in a row, structuring his upper command, being ever vigilant regarding his immediate family/ friends in his chain of command regarding their income they will receive when they retire. That is a “mind-taxing” game. PUBLIC SAFETY? Quit your whining, taxpayers, your elected sheriff has no time for that and doesn’t hear you. Durand neighbors, are you reading this?
Listen to the workers who are there endless hours, responsible for your public safety as they come to work and take a seat to start their shift at the 911 center. We know what’ s going on in there. Don’t listen to what he or his people are telling you. We are living this nightmare. I am the voice of the 911 dispatchers that cannot express how they feel, risk losing their job if they speak out. Is this the public official you want representing and running your county’s public safety? This IS NOT public safety, and if YOU don’ t step up and go out to the polls and vote him and his nepotism out of office, this is what you are AGREEING to pay for. I can only speak of the most important entity of this sheriff’s department, where PUBLIC SAFETY BEGINS, the 911 center. The Winnebago County 911 Communications center has clearly never been tended to or even taken care of. I started work there the day it opened. There has never been routine computer maintenance in there; the equipment is in disrepair. The chairs we sit on 24/7 for 4.5 years are falling apart/parts missing/arms missing/stained fabric/ cushions deteriorating and foam falling out on the floor. Broken phones, sticky keyboards, stained, frayed mouse pads, static-bearing headsets, parts missing on the partitions dividing the consoles, county maps taped and falling off the walls…a disgusting mess. The air quality in there is poor…uncontrollable dust. YOUR sheriff doesn’t care….why, he’s only been inside a handful of times since he opened the doors in 2006…that being for media shoots only. Many have only seen him on the news. He clearly doesn’ t care. Did you know this? Do you care? I sure hope so. I do, that’ s why I am writing this letter to you, the Winnebago county citizens, taxpayers and voters!!! THINK ABOUT THIS BEFORE YOU VOTE…OR IF YOU’RE NOT A VOTER…YOU’D BETTER RECONSIDER FOR THIS LOCAL ELECTION!
The current sheriff’s running opponent is Sgt. Aaron Booker. Sgt. Aaron Booker has been living this nightmare as night supervisor at the 911 center for over four years. He is currently running for sheriff to start the process to “right” all the “wrongs” within the county’s sheriff’s Department and dispatch center. Currently, as you know, Sgt. Booker is under fire—all politically oriented. I want to tell you these allegations are HIGHLY EXAGGERATED, and I know that to be true because I was there AND ate, drank and dealt with that nightmare for over four years. I also worked under the command of Sgt. Booker at the 911 center. These issues are only brought to light now because of the upcoming election. No one would have known about these issues (issues that happen in every department of every business, every day) referencing verbal disputes involving the acting 911 center supervisor Sgt. Booker vs. several insubordinate workers. Had it not been for Richard Meyers grasping for anything he can use against Sgt. Booker, in an attempt to hinder his chance at becoming the next sheriff, barely a soul would have known about these extremely minor “tiffs” between employees being reprimanded by their supervisor. They are only minor disputes that the union can handle and resolve quickly…as they do regularly in the sheriff’s department. But Meyers wanted this to be full-blown in an attempt to wipe out Aaron Booker’s chance at being elected. Where are you, Sheriff Meyers, to deal with the REAL problems you have created within the 911 center? Staffing shortages? Where’s the money allotted that center? Why aren’t you helping and handling those problems?
The reason he chose this type of nasty attack on Sgt. Aaron Booker is because Sheriff Meyers knows his own employees who currently work for him in every single department of Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department have strong opposition against everything he has done to and for the department since he took office. Those employees are worth hundreds and hundreds of votes against him when it includes their family and friends who will head to the polls. Those votes against him have now multiplied and are in the thousands and very critical to Meyers’ re-election. Sheriff Meyers promoted Aaron Booker to sergeant for the job he did at the sheriff’s department. Now, feeling the heat and pressure from within his sheriff’s department, Richard Meyers is spearheading an UGLY attack on his own sergeant just to get re-elected? Doesn’t that say anything about Winnebago county? Meyers’ whole campaign is nasty politics at “best” and an all-out, last-ditch effort to grasp at anything to save his “empire.” Sgt. Aaron Booker is running against his boss to win the election and begin to “right” ALL of the “wrongs.” Sgt. Booker is a sargeant at the Winnebago County Sheriff’s department who knows PUBLIC SAFETY and knows the critical state our county is in today because of the lack of interest your “elected” sheriff has in your public safety.
This is NOT just my opinion…it’s the truth, and I thought you should know.
Karen McKillips has been a Winnebago County taxpayer for more than 23 years.
From the Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2010 issue