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There's a change coming to how local police officers answer non-emergency calls after the offices have closed for the day. Starting October 2, all after-hours calls made to the Altona Police Service, Winkler Police Service, and Morden Police Service regular phone lines will go to the Emergency Communications Centre in Brandon.

"Currently officers call-forward to a cell when the public (calls) they're speaking to a police officer," explained Altona Police Chief, Perry Batchelor. He added the coming change means that those calls will instead be forwarded to Brandon. "So when somebody dials (an agency's regular phone number) they'll actually be speaking with a dispatcher in Brandon who will determine the nature of the call and dispatch officers accordingly."

Winkler Police Chief, Rick Hiebert, noted this new system will greatly improve resident and officer safety.

"When people are calling for police assistance, some of those calls might be very urgent situations, and if that happens to be at the same time that an officer is in a critical incident situation (they) might not be able to answer the phone."

Brandon's Emergency Communications Centre already provides a variety of services to each of these three police departments and this switch to a full dispatch system has been in the works has been a long-time coming.

Brad Neduzak, Chief of Police for the City of Morden, said there had even been talk at one time of starting a regional call dispatch centre for the three police agencies.

"The quick answer to that is the expense of setting up our own dispatch would far out-weigh the cost of having Brandon do it for us," he said, pointing to staffing requirements, operator training, and necessary equipment.

"Although there obviously is a price to everything, this included, we felt this was a less expensive route as well as a better way to go," added Neduzak.

Calls for service during regular office hours will still be answered locally by civilian staff.

Additional information courtesy the Altona, Winkler, and Morden police departments:

- Emergency calls should always be made to 9-1-1

- After-hour calls for service regarding complaints, non-emergency assistance, tips, etc, can be placed to the individual police agency regular phone number and will be answered by Brandon's Communication Centre and dispatched accordingly.  
  Altona 204-324-5353    Morden 204-822-4900    Winkler 204-325-9990

- Non-urgent calls can be placed to the individual police agencies admin lines either during regular office hours or messages left after hours.
  Altona 204-324-5373    Morden 204-822-6292   Winkler 204-325-0829

Please note that calls made regarding police service to the R.M.’s of Rhineland or Stanley must be made to the RCMP.  Altona, Morden, and Winkler do not police these rural areas.

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