The new 24-7 centralized dispatch service for Manitoba conservation officers is now fully operational, announced Economic Development, Investment, Trade and Natural Resources Minister Jamie Moses on Wednesday morning.
The 24-7 dispatch service is provided through the Brandon Public-Safety Communication Centre, which also provides emergency dispatch services for seven police agencies and 192 fire departments throughout the province, as well as to Manitoba-based enforcement officers of the Canadian Wildlife Service.
“Conservation officers often work in remote areas protecting our natural resources and building relationships with communities,” said Moses, “This new communication system will provide a vital lifeline of support and increase officer safety while they are out doing their important work.”
“The City of Brandon is excited to partner with the Manitoba government by providing valuable public-safety communications to conservation officers in the field,” said Robert Stewart, director of emergency communications, Brandon Public-Safety Communication Centre. “Officers having constant radio contact is a big step forward to keeping officers safe while they carry out their duties.”
The 24-7 centralized dispatch service went live back on October 26th from the Brandon centre, and has been in operation for just over one month. But in that timeframe, much has been done to fine-tune this service with this unique body of law enforcement that can often be in remote areas, dealing with criminals who are carrying firearms.
"We've done a lot of work with Conservation Officer Service to make sure that we understand their shift patterns and to make sure we understand how they operate, how we contact them if they need to get somewhere in a helicopter or on a plane," explains Stewart. "There's a lot of fine-tuning and some areas in the province that aren't just covered by radio so what are some alternate methods that we can use. So, over the last month of actual practical working with them live 24 hours a day, we've come up with a lot of solutions, and a lot of extra ways that we can keep them safe and stay in contact."
The Brandon Public-Safety Communication Centre does not facilitate the Conservation Officer Service’s Turn In Poachers (TIP) line.
"But, if there are problems that require 9-11 that could potentially involve a Conservation Officer," adds Stewart, "it's probably one of those things where we would contact the RCMP if it were out in rural Manitoba, and then the RCMP would call us back to get some Conservation Officer help. And we have agreements with the RCMP between us and Conservation that we can call them if we need to."
Stewart says Manitoba Conservation Officers now have a full-time dispatch person dedicated to their sector of law enforcement at the Emergency Dispatch Centre.
"They have one dispatch member 24 hours a day that is their sole responsibility is to look after the Conservation Officers," explains Stewart, "and because of the dangerous nature of law enforcement in general, not having a dispatcher, not having that communications background, at best it distracts the officer while he's doing his job and at worst, it could lead to some big safety problems for those officers. So, having a communication center, having staff that are looking out for them helps them to concentrate and focus on what they're doing now and not worry so much about if anybody knows where they are, because now we do know where they are."
The current contract is for a three-year period, with an option for a two-year extension, the minister noted.
“This exciting partnership with the City of Brandon has created a critical service for conservation officers that did not exist before,” said Minister Moses. “We look forward to continued collaboration with municipalities across Manitoba.”
To report poachers and human-wildlife interactions, Manitobans can call the Conservation Officer Service’s Turn In Poachers (TIP) line toll-free at 1-800-782-0076.