Detective Timothy Redd, vice president of Turlock Associated Police Officers, said the dispatch center is a reflection of the “catastrophic” staffing levels within the entire department.
“We’re going to see an increased use of sick leave because those employees are just mentally and physically exhausted,” Redd said.
Redd told FOX40 only two of the employees are fully trained dispatchers. He said the critical shortage needs to be addressed.
As part of their ongoing and growing issue TAPO recently posted a letter on Facebook, giving the community a glimpse of how few officers and dispatchers the department currently has.
“Right now for this day and age, for the city of Turlock, we’re at 78 allotted in our budget and that’s 78 sworn officers including myself,” said Turlock Police Chief Nino Amirfar.
Less than 100 officers for a city of more than 72,000 people.
“That is insufficient for a city of this size. Currently, we haven’t been able to fill all 78 positions,” Amirfar said.
Chief Amirfar said staff must put in required overtime hours to make up for the shortfall. It’s put a strain on their professional and personal lives.
“Quite frankly, they can’t even use a restroom without taking their Bluetooth headsets with them," Amirfar said.
Redd said they're losing qualified, tenured staff to neighboring cities that offer better salaries with lighter workloads.
“Unfortunately, salary negotiations is going to really deal with the retention aspects of it,” he said.
Mayor Gary Soiseth said he and city council have been discussing incentives to attract more officers, including bonuses with a five-year commitment.
"This is just the beginning. We need to look at salary negotiations, we need to look at other things to make our department stronger," Soiseth told FOX40.
The chief said their ongoing challenges do not discount their dedication to the people they serve.
“You have a police department that’s committed to their community," Amirfar said. "If they weren’t you wouldn’t be able to have the amount and level of service that we’re able to provide with the numbers that we currently have.”
Salary negotiations are usually set for April but the mayor is hoping to meet with the department sooner to fix what he calls "salary inequities."