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A new dispatch center opened today in Buffalo Police Headquarters, one of the first steps needed to install computer terminals in patrol cars in December.

"This represents a significant step into the future to modernize our city's ability to communicate," Mayor Masiello said of the new $340,000 communications center.

With mobile computer terminals, officers out on patrol will be able to perform license plate checks, verify if a driver's license is valid and find out if an individual is wanted on an arrest warrant.

"It's another investment in the Buffalo Police Department. This administration is committed to getting out of the dark ages by upgrading equipment," Masiello said. "It gives our personnel the ability to react more timely and professionally."

Police Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske expressed thanks to the many people who helped make the center possible, including Common Council members.

"It involved a lot of complex equipment and a myriad of contract language to get through," Kerlikowske said.

After cutting the ribbon, Masiello reached over to police communications Capt. Gerald W. Schoenle and shook his hand to thank him personally.

Schoenle has worked for months planning and setting up the equipment. Friday, with tools in hand, he was putting the finishing touches on work stations to operate the high-tech radio and computer equipment in the center.

"This new facility is only half of the improvements in our communications center," Schoenle said. "The other improvements are in our radio infrastructure with new transmitters and other equipment that will serve us for many years to come."

Working closely with the captain was Paul Anthon, the Buffalo Fire Department's superintendent of alarms, who provided technical assistance. The Fire Department installed a new computer system in its operations two years ago.

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