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Shawnee County Dispatch Center is paying about 600 hours of overtime due to short staff

Published: Jun. 14, 2021 at 6:39 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -The Shawnee County Dispatch Center responds to more than 300,000 calls a year. They’re doing it with only 23 dispatchers, which is only 60% of their usual staff.

The dispatch shortage is also leading them to pay more than 600 hours of overtime.

“We do post about 600 hours of overtime every two weeks and what we have done lately is find ways to decrease that overtime and spreading out our staff with the volume of radio traffic so we were able to eliminate a little over 100 hours,” said Melanie Bergers, Director of Communications for the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office.

Even with the extra long hours, the dispatchers still give the job their all.

“You know they’re tired, they already work a stressful job and on top of the long extra hours that they are already working but they do continue to do a great job but we are always looking for help,” Bergers said.

Bergers hoped the 2020 spike in unemployment from the pandemic would bring in more job applications, but she says it’s just the opposite.

“The pandemic has done us no favors, we anticipated at the beginning of that time that we would see an increase of applications and that did not happen, we saw an extreme decrease in our applications,” she said.

The dispatch center makes it their priority to help others but in order to do so, they need to find some extra hands.

“We have a duty to serve the citizens in this community and in order to do that we have to have people here to answer those phone calls when we are paying out overtime it’s not because we don’t want to hire more people, its because it is very difficult to find people and get them through the training process and hold onto them,”.

Bergers says one key qualification, is the hardest task to complete, which is being able to type 35 words per minute.

“There’s a lot of codes and signals so it’s a lot of memorization but the typing was easier for me just because I have been doing it throughout school,” said dispatch trainee, Annalise Johansen.

The hourly pay rate will increase to $16.13 an hour on July 1st.

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