Emergency-vehicle GPS plan is getting a mixed response
A proposal calling for installation of global positioning systems in all emergency vehicles operating in Boston drew mixed reactions from city officials earlier this month, from concerns that it could be used to monitor emergency workers, to praise that it could provide faster response times.
"With today's technology, it should be standard equipment, at least for navigational purposes, but I also believe it's useful to know where your assets are," Councilor Charles Yancey, who proposed the ordinance to the City Council last January, said in a recent interview.
The technology, adopted in recent years by emergency personnel in cities such as Denver and Minneapolis, has two distinct features, according to the proposal: allowing dispatchers to determine the vehicle closest to the site of an emergency, and providing drivers with the ability to identify the shortest route to their destination.
"This should not be a controversial issue, and quite frankly I'm a bit surprised," Yancey, who represents Mattapan and Dorchester, said during a Dec. 11 working session with representatives from the police and fire departments and the Department of Public Health, which manages statewide emergency systems.
While he expressed skepticism about the reliability of directions provided by GPS units, Councilor Michael Ross, who chaired the session, said he supported working toward a collective bargaining pact that could allow the technology to be implemented for tracking the vehicles, including Boston police and fire as well as city-run and private ambulance companies operating in Boston.
The Boston Police Superior Officers Federation has opposed the move, contending that it was more about tracking its officers than giving directions. "This is a measure which jeopardizes the safety of our officers as their locations could easily be revealed by an individual with the ability to hack into the system," Lieutenant Joseph Gillespie, president of the association, wrote in a letter to the council earlier this year.