NEW PORT RICHEY — When it gets to the point that an overworked police dispatcher almost cannot take breaks or have time to use the restroom, changes are needed, New Port Richey Police Chief Kim Bogart says.
With high turnover among part-timers and escalating overtime costs, the New Port Richey Police Department has received permission to reorganize its dispatching department.
“I have four vacancies at this moment,” Police Chief Kim Bogart told city council members. Since January 2011, 25 people have come and gone, he explained.
The communication center accrued about $16,000 in overtime for fiscal 2013, Bogart reported.
Most troublesome, Bogart added, were extended periods of time when only one dispatcher was on duty because of staff shortages.
That sole dispatcher had to juggle answering calls from residents for service, dispatching calls, monitoring all officers’ activities, monitoring security cameras and providing information for officers in the field. The officer often relies on a dispatcher to verify warrants and stolen property, call for tow trucks, check addresses and more.
Shorthanded, the police department often has trouble scheduling certification training required by a Florida law passed in 2012, Bogart said. A trainee must complete 232 hours of training and pass a state exam within one year of the hire date
The current police department budget includes for full-time and eight part-time dispatchers 25 hours or less a week, Bogart said.
Council members approved the police chief’s plan to convert the eight part-time positions into five full-time positions. The result will be nine full-time dispatchers.
Only one full-time dispatcher has left because of retirement during the past few years, Bogart noted. Meanwhile, part-time dispatcher jobs have become a revolving door. Many have been students who depart in short order. Other part-timers leave for full-time positions elsewhere in the region.
Councilwoman Judy DeBella Thomas asked if cross-training city employees in other departments would help. Bogart replied there simply would not be enough time.
A proposed merger of the city dispatch system with Pasco County’s 911 Communications Center has been postponed several times past the October 2013 target date, Bogart said.
“You’ve had a lot on your plate the last year,” Councilman Bill Phillips sympathized in a remark to Bogart. Part-time dispatchers have been using their city experience as resume builders, he said.
A wailing police car siren in the background during the discussion provoked some chuckles. Bogart jokingly denied he had arranged for the siren during the topic on the council agenda.