Sheriff’s department lands $1.5 million grant

Funds will help harden communications infrastructure against extreme conditions.

The sheriffs department has received a $1.5 million state grant. From left, Anthony Gould, Dukes County Sheriff Bob Ogden, Dukes County Special Sheriff James Neville and Peter Graczykowski.

Dukes County Sheriff Robert Ogden pulled in a $1.5 million grant from the state’s 911 Department. Ogden said the grant was the largest the sheriff’s office ever received in modern history.

After making the rounds last spring at Vineyard annual meetings, and finance committees and selectmen prior to that, Ogden walked away empty-handed from the Island’s six towns. Ogden asked for a combined $600,000 to help cover the costs of running the communications center. The money just received was granted under the specific condition it not be used to maintain county communications, and only be used to upgrade them.

After he was snubbed by the Island towns, Ogden said matters had become urgent, given the state of the system he was working with.

“I just felt like there was no way we could wait any longer,” he said.

Ogden said he went straight to Frank Pozniak, executive director of the state 911 Department, and explained the unique challenges his department faces on the Vineyard, from the cost of living to the antiquated communication systems. Pozniak brought the issue to Public Safety and Security Director Dan Bennett. Bennett, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, state Sen. Julian Cyr, and state Rep. Dylan Fernandes helped make the grant a reality, he said.

“Right now,” Ogden said of the system, “it’s not safe.”

He explained the VHF system the sheriff’s department uses dates back to 1964. In a three-phase plan, he aims to overhaul and modernize it to within a decade of contemporary standards.

“We’re going to jump 50 years ahead, but we’re still 10 years behind,” he said.

The grant will also help with a 140-foot tower his department intends to erect in Oak Bluffs. Two-thirds of its cost will be drawn from the grant, while the remaining third will be ponied up by the town of Oak Bluffs. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission is scheduled to consider it tomorrow night.

Another recent success of Ogden’s was getting a boost in personnel funding to cover the high cost of living on the Vineyard.

“The development funding gap is roughly equivalent to two years of previously requested Dukes County [communications center] assessments from the Island communities,” a sheriff’s release states, “which means that Phase 1 could be accomplished more quickly, if the local funds were made available in fiscal years 2019 and 2020. The Sheriff’s Office advocated for and received additional $328,138 in funding from state 911 Department for its Support & Incentive Grant, which alleviated the [communications center] personnel funding deficit to a large extent. The request for current and future shared funding will focus on infrastructure development, management, and maintenance of the upgraded radio system.”

Ogden said some Vineyard towns said, Come see us when you’ve got some money from the state. He said he’s coming to see them.


  1. All I read in this grand scheme of Ogden’s are plans to grow the infrastructure base, to enable him to house MORE prisoners, rather than REDUCE numbers of prisoners. A truly enlightened Sheriff, rather than one seeking to maintain job security, would at minimum tackle recidivism rates. But nope, that could possibly lead to budget reductions. Can’t have that.
    If Ogden had as much of an obsession with education programs and substance abuse reduction, as he does with his 911 tunnel vision, the County might be better off. But don’t wait to see Ogden going around to 6 town meetings to fight for his “guests”, just not in his thinking.

    • “If Ogden had as much of an obsession with education programs and substance abuse reduction.”

      Are you aware that Ogden ran the DARE program for like 20 years?

      I don’t see anything in this article relating to the jail whatsoever. The point is that our 911 system is broken and we are lucky that no one has died due to its inefficiencies.

  2. Interesting how we both read the same aticle, yet, I didn’t see one sentence about increasing the bed count.

  3. Sure, I will elaborate . My apologies for not being clearer.
    By enhancing and upgrading the 911 system, it’s underlying intent is to draw more criminals into his Edgartown Bed and Breakfast. Currently, when numbers dip, local Crime inconveniently takes its own holiday, the Sheriff is forced to call around and beg other off-island Sheriffs to fill his beds. That is how we got Saudi princes and Cape murderers.
    My vision is to reduce calls to 911, by reducing recidivism rate through a sincere investment in education/substance abuse programs. Instead Ogden’s obsession is grow the infrastructure which insures steady check-ins at his B&B. A dollar spent towards reducing recidivism will serve the County far more than an enhanced system to fill all his beds with local criminals.

    • Your vision is skewed and you are just not knowledgable about the system or the current Sheriff, and it’s apparent. This is not the same Sheriff that begged for off island convicted felons like past administrations. This is a State agency, no longer County.

    • You might want to have a chat with a local 911 dispatcher or even just listen to the scanner for a couple hours. Most 911 calls are do not involve situations that would lead to someone spending time at the House of Corrections. They are car accidents, injuries, smoke alarms, heart attacks, houses on fire. The County currently has problem communicating with first responders in situations where seconds matter more than minutes. Talk to a cop or an EMT about their difficulties communicating with the Comm Center.

      Reducing recidivism is a very important goal, but suggesting that the Sheriff’s push to upgrade 50 year old communication tech is nothing more than an attempt to increase the prison population is misguided, counterproductive and dangerous.

  4. edwardvineyard, calling DARE a drug abuse prevention program is a little like calling the Gremlin or Pinto a car, or POTUS sensitive to victims of sexual violence, even calling MV a renters paradise. DARE is universally held to be a failed program (except for the school kids who got nice t-shirts and a certificate).Costing upwards of 1.4 billion nationwide. Take a look in any District Court Report and tell me it has worked. That is not the kind of substance abuse program anyone associates with success.

    • I am well aware of DARE’s shortcomings. My comment was only meant to highlight that you are portraying someone that spent years trying to keep kids off of drugs as someone uninterested in “education programs and substance abuse reduction.”

      And anecdotally, as someone that went through Officer Ogden’s (as we called him back then) DARE program he did pretty well. He cared an we cared that he cared.

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