To the Editor,

All my life, I have lived in Manchester-by-the-Sea, and this February marks my 30th year as a member of the police department.  As our community considers regionalizing our dispatch center, I feel it is incumbent on me as a lifetime resident of this town and Police Chief to share my insight into the matter.

Manchester-by-the-Sea is a small, tight knit community.  In the police department, we see ourselves as the helpers, ready at a moment’s notice to assist our community with anything they may need.  That includes everything from our pick-up and delivery service for groceries, toiletries, and other essentials amid COVID-19 to investigating crimes and emergencies.

I like to think our residents know us, recognize our faces, and feel they can approach us.  We strive to keep that rapport strong because relationships and connections matter.  They build a key foundation for trust and familiarity, which is crucial when someone needs our help.

Many of you may recognize our dispatchers' voices, because in addition to calls for police, fire, the animal control officer, Department of Public Works, and harbormaster, they take our business calls too.  They know the ins and outs of Manchester-by-the-Sea, which streets are one-way or a dead end, and the little nuances of our town.  When they are taking a call, they know what questions to ask.

Our dispatch center is a key part of our operation.

Without them, our station could possibly go dark.  What does that mean?

It means the station will not be open to the public 24/7 the way it is now, because our dispatch crew serves as our reception staff.  The officers patrolling through our various day and night shifts are responsible for emergency responses, traffic and parking enforcement, community policing, and responding to other calls for service—asking them to return to the station any time a walk-in arrives could result in a delayed response to a person in our lobby and will result in one less officer immediately available for the other responsibilities listed above.  Most of our full-time and part-time dispatchers are also reserve police officers and can assist with a police officer related issue immediately in the lobby.

Here in Manchester, it is not often someone rushes into our station with a crisis.  But I think it is a big source of comfort for people to know that option is available—it is for me, personally.  I do not want to see our community go without that in the years to come.  As it is difficult to return if the decision is made to regionalize our dispatch.

Ultimately, I believe having our own dispatch center is a valuable resource worth preserving.  It is an investment in our community, and in the quality of personal service I would like our dispatch center to continue to offer. 

As always, if you have any questions or would just like to chat, feel free to reach out to me at fitzgeraldt@manchester.ma.us.  As we hopefully move past the pandemic, I want to remind residents that I continue to hold my office hours the first Thursday of every month from 4pm to 6pm at Seaside One, 12 Central Street.

In the meantime, be well Manchester and thank-you for your continued support!

Todd Fitzgerald, Chief of Police