“Every moment we are talking to dispatch.” Said Bozeman Police Chief Steve Crawford.
Dispatcher play a key role in public safety, but are facing a serious problem.
“I got a 60 hour week next week, I'm on a 48 hour this week.” said 9-1-1 dispatcher Jennifer LaCross.
She was talking about her work schedule. The hours are overwhelming since the call center has seen a drop in dispatchers.
‘The more overtime you do the less time you have to recuperate from the and then you’re like I can’t do this anymore.” Said call center director Kerry O’Connell.
They may work behind the scenes, but the role of dispatcher is an essential part of public safety.
“There are times when the staffing shortage gets maxed out and I think the staffing shortage definitely exacerbates that problem. “ said Chief Crawford.
But why is the 9-1-1 Center having such a difficult time making new hires?
“The research that I have done shows that our unemployment rate is really low so everyone that wants to work is working. “ said O’Connell.
It’s also no secret that Bozeman is not the cheapest place to live. The starting salary for a dispatcher is less than 16 dollars an hour.
“You compare that to our cost of living and i think at this point in the Bozeman area it’s really hard for anyone to look at living here without 2 sources of income.” Said O’Connell.
To be fully staffed the center would have 19 dispatchers, right now they have 13, but at the end of the month two of them are leaving, putting even more stress on the remaining dispatchers
“Where we are right now doesn't sound so bad but we’re just trying to keep our head above water.” Said O’Connell.
Now, the 9-1-1 center is trying to find new ways to attract people to the position.
“We’re looking at where people find jobs now, they don t know that it would interest them until they see it. So trying to get it out there in more places.”
So, who would be a good fit for the position?
“Any kind of passion for law enforcement or people who are interested in sociology would be interested in this type of job. “
As LaCross says she’s been a dispatcher for over 20 years, but didn’t always think she’d end up there.
“I never thought I would be able to do anything like this until I actually tried it.”