Sacramento Police Department Hopes to Hire More 911 Dispatchers

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SACRAMENTO -- In an emergency dial 911 -- it's a rule instilled at a young age. But what if the call isn't answered fast enough?

That's the reality the Sacramento Police Department faces.

Over the last 10 years staffing levels at the 911 center dropped from 108 full-time dispatcher jobs to 70. In that same time, the call volume increased by 16 percent, making it nearly impossible to keep up with answer time standards.

"We do get complaints about that; we're a little bit behind, generally, of where that demand is and we're always trying to catch up and fill that demand," said Council Member Jay Schenirer of District 5.

California standards require 95 percent of incoming 911 calls to be answered within 15 seconds. The state's Office of Emergency Services said between July 2016 and July 2017 Sacramento Police Department dispatchers answered calls within 15 seconds only 82 percent of the time.

A lack of dispatchers isn't the only reason for delays in call answer times. Currently many 911 cellphone calls are routed to CHP.

The solution? The police department asks the Sacramento City Council to pass a resolution to eliminate eight vacant police officer positions and instead use the $880,000 allocated for those jobs to hire 10 dispatchers.

The department also wants the 911 call center to directly answer all cellphone calls.

Schenirer says he's on board with the change.

"I think it's a very valid request, having a new chief really wanting to change the culture in the department, wanting to build trust in the neighborhoods," Schenirer said. "This is something that can go a long way toward that."

Schenirer said when this is presented to the city council he expects it to be agreed on and implemented quickly.

The communication center staffing issue is on the Sacramento City Council's calendar for Tuesday's meeting.