City Council Approves Mayor’s Plan to Address Long-Standing Dispatch Issues

New Compensation Package for Dispatcher is Latest Step by Mayor Faulconer to Improve Police Dispatch Operations and Emergency Call Reponse Time

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 - NEWS RELEASE

San Diego – In the latest step to address long-standing dispatch issues and improve emergency wait times, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer today won approval from a City Council supermajority for a new compensation package for 911 dispatchers to address recruitment and retention issues.

Under the new agreement, police dispatchers will receive three separate 5 percent increases staggered over the next year to improve retention (increases on July 1; Jan. 1, 2017; and July 1, 2017). This follows several steps to make dispatcher pay more competitive and improve operations at the dispatch center.

“This problem wasn’t created overnight, but we are committed to taking the steps to fix it,” Mayor Faulconer said. “We’re tackling this issue head-on with operational changes and now we’re making San Diego’s dispatcher compensation more competitive so we can hire and retain the best and brightest men and women for what is an intense and critical job. We’re already seeing the results as emergency wait times have improved and we will continue to make changes as needed to ensure that San Diego remains one of the nation’s safest big cities.”

The average wait times for 911 calls have improved markedly in the last few months since operational changes were implemented. In April, the average 911 wait time was 15 seconds while the average for May fell to 10 seconds.

Before this new agreement and other compensation changes, San Diego ranked near the bottom in total compensation for dispatchers – 17th out of 18th according to a California Agencies Survey conducted in November 2015. San Diego is expected to rank higher in future surveys following this round of compensation increases.

Mayor Faulconer recommended and the City Council approved $652,000 in the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget to address recruitment and retention issues in the dispatch center. Those funds will be used to pay for the new compensation package approved today.

Mayor Faulconer had previously taken several steps to address dispatcher compensation and improve operations, including:

•    Gaining approval from the Civil Service Commission to start dispatchers at a higher base pay – an increase of 10.15 percent
•    Providing $1,000 exceptional merit bonuses for most dispatchers in March
•    Starting with Mayor Faulconer’s first budget proposal, fully funding dispatch positions (currently 134) for the first time in years so the funds are available to hire those positions
•    Recruiting year-round for dispatchers, which the City wasn’t doing before
•    Shifting additional resources to expedite the hiring process for dispatchers
•    Training sworn officers and light-duty officers to assist at the call center when necessary (48 are already trained and able to assist)

BACKGROUND

In response to the City’s financial crisis, funding was cut for public safety over the course of many years as City leaders worked to balance a shrinking budget.

Between Fiscal Year 2008 and Fiscal Year 2012, public safety – including emergency dispatch – saw reductions as City leaders worked to balance the budget in the face of rising pension bills and an economic recession. Budgeted and actual positions decreased almost every year over that period.

At the same time, annual 911 call volume began to increase dramatically. There were more than 100,000 more calls to 911 in Fiscal Year 2015 compared to Fiscal Year 2008 (626,694 vs. 526,391).

A contributing factor is additional phone lines. Until 2014, callers to 911 would receive a busy signal if all lines were full. To avoid this, 16 lines were added over the last two years (10 in June 2014 and 6 in November 2015). The additional lines decreased busy signals but allowed for an increase in call capacity.

As a result, call wait times pre-2014 are not directly comparable to today because the dispatch system does not track callers who receive busy signals.
 

CONTACT: Craig Gustafson at (619) 453-9880 or [email protected]