Agencies stymied by dispatch snafu during west Pasco standoff

Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldJuly 11, 2014 

PASCO -- Communication difficulties caused by separate dispatch systems in Franklin and Benton counties led to "very dangerous" problems for authorities at a standoff earlier this week in west Pasco, law enforcement officials said.

Pasco officers arrived at the scene first and they couldn't directly communicate with Benton County deputies to tell them where to go to set up a perimeter, officials said. This caused some officers to be left unprotected and in the line of fire as they arrived.

"We actually had one commander, Cmdr. (Scott) Child from Kennewick, who actually had a bullet come within a foot of his head as he's coming in, not knowing where the scene was because we couldn't communicate," said Bob Metzger, Pasco police chief.

Sheriff Steve Keane and Metzger emphasized at a news conference Thursday that the breakdown in communication at the scene put officers and citizens in harm's way.

The agencies even ran out of radios they were handing out to communicate with each other, officials said.

"It's become such a concern of ours that we really feel like we are placing innocent citizens at risk," Keane said.

Officials are expected to make a decision soon about whether to consolidate dispatch centers and have a regional emergency communications and records system in the Tri-Cities.

An interlocal agreement explaining how the system would be managed is expected be considered by late summer. Commissioners in Benton and Franklin counties, and Kennewick, Richland and Pasco city councils will consider the plan.

A consultant paid for by a state grant has been working since last year to develop the plan.

Both counties and three cities agreed in spring 2013 to hire the consultant to develop the consolidation plan.

Both Metzger and Keane said Thursday that the idea of consolidation has been talked about for a while and it's time to get a plan finalized.

"This situation (Wednesday) night really brought it to a head in our view and also the other chiefs in the area," Metzger said.

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