MBTS Public Safety Leaders Discuss Move to Regional Public Safety Dispatch


After last week’s move by the Select Board to formalize a move for Manchester’s public safety dispatch operations to a regionalized one shared by five other area municipalities, the town’s public safety chiefs this week moved to address transition.

Over the next several months, Manchester Police Chief Todd Fitzgerald and Fire Chief Jason Cleary said transition of the town’s 911 call center and emergency dispatch functions to the North Shore Regional 911 communications center in Middleton will begin.

Both the Manchester-by-the-Sea Police and Fire Departments, working with town officials and other partners, have planned for this change extensively to ensure there is no interruption or reduction in services, and according to a statement this week, are assuring residents that all of the community's first responders are “still just a phone call away.” 

“Regionalization is a lengthy and detailed process that requires significant due diligence. Thankfully, we have a very dedicated team in Manchester-by-the-Sea, and I am proud to partner with Chief Cleary as we move this portion of our emergency services into a new era," Chief Fitzgerald said. "I am grateful to Chief Cleary and Town Manager Gregory Federspiel for their thoughtfulness and partnership.”

Regionalization is viewed by many, including those in state government, as the future, and it will enable police departments to share vital services.

As recently as June 2, the Baker-Polito Administration announced hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money to support regional dispatch centers, including $300,000 in state grant funding to the North Shore Regional 911 Center to fund the completion of a high-speed fiber network connecting the towns of Danvers, Essex, Hamilton, Wenham, Middleton, Topsfield, and Manchester-By-The-Sea.

During the planning process, Chief Fitzgerald called attention to one concern that is generally raised by small town police departments when regionalization is discussed: dispatchers and telecommunicators are generally the only staffers inside the police station overnight.

However, with new technologies (many of which matured during the COVID-19 pandemic, where in-person meetings shifted to virtual and Zoom meetings) those wishing to speak to police personnel can do so 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

As a result of this decision, the Manchester-by-the-Sea Police Department is looking at different options for lobby staffing.  Additionally, Manchester-by-the-Sea police officers are on patrol at all times and are always available to address citizen reports and concerns.

"Systematic change is not a fast or easy process, and that is all the more reason why the strong working relationship between the Police and Fire Departments in Manchester-by-the-Sea is so important," Chief Cleary said.  "I look forward to working alongside Chief Fitzgerald in the most professional and cohesive manner possible as we navigate this transition. While there will undoubtedly be questions as we move forward, we are, as always, committed to a transparent, citizen-first approach. The Manchester Fire Department will continue to answer all calls for service in the swift and professional manner that the citizens of our town have come to expect and appreciate."