COVID-19 presents challenge in filling 911 dispatch positions at Shawnee Co. Sheriff’s Office

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 6:43 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office has implemented new recruitment methods to find applicants for open 911 dispatch positions, but even with an increase in people looking for work, restrictions from COVID-19 has created challenges in filling the open spots, which the county has the goal to fill. 

“One of the hurdles that we’re having right now is that we’re not allowing anyone in the Dispatch center for obvious reasons, we only allow dispatch personnel, no first responders nor anybody else,” Director of Emergency Communications for the Shawnee Co. Sheriff’s Office Melanie Bergers told County Commissioners Monday. 

Bergers said there’s been some remote teaching methods incorporated in job training, but observing up close is how an applicant can figure out if the position is right for them. 

“Our applicants they need to be in there to observe to really fully understand what they’re getting themselves into,” Berger said. 

“So we’re having to need to find other ways to show them whether we show them pictures, videos, calls things like that so this has given us a hurdle.”

Berger said typically, applicants begin to drop from the process once they get into a live situation in the dispatch center. 

“They don’t fully understand the types of calls and the dispatching and multitasking we can explain that all day long.”

Experiencing the dispatch center in person is also where Berger said candidates can also find if they can handle the emotional element of the job. 

“They find that they’re not able to disconnect from taking the calls home they find that those calls continue and they think about them while they’re at home,” she said. “Even though these folks in training are all offered our peer support program we talk about things after the fact after difficult calls it really takes someone that is able to disconnect from that.”

Bergers told 13 NEWS there are currently 11 dispatch positions open. 

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