AURORA, Colo. — They’re the men and women you never see, but you hear them first when you’re dealing with an emergency.
Cities rely on dispatchers to get crews where they need to be – a big responsibility, but right now, there aren’t enough people to share it.
Aurora is working to fill 23 open dispatch positions to add to a staff of 91. Employees like Angelique Gamble, who’s been there for a year, says she feels the pressure that comes from not having enough people at the Aurora dispatch center.
"It's a huge impact. It takes away from the customer service we can provide. We are constantly having to triage calls or cut them short. We are not doing our citizens justice, " said Gamble.
Officer Bill Hummel with Aurora Police said the positions can be hard to fill, in part because of the stress of the job, the tough hours and working holidays. To help alleviate some of the workload, Aurora Police officers stepped in about a year ago to help field calls.
"Currently we have a group of police officers who are trained to work on the radio as a police dispatcher," said Hummel. "They are handling the radio traffic, dispatching other officers to calls. They’re doing that on an overtime basis on their time off.”
The overtime is costing close to $44,000 this year, according to Hummel.
While the police department has open positions, as well, they’re better off in terms of staffing and want to help.
"We need to help these hardworking men and women. We don't want the service of our citizens to be impacted by staffing," said Hummel.
The city has set aside about $345,000 to pay for the 23 open dispatch positions in Aurora.
The problem reaches beyond Aurora. The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office has six open positions in their dispatch center.
Denver started working on a fix years ago. Athena Butler, the director of Denver 911, said they looked at staffing levels and call volumes, and then asked to add additional positions. They’ve also worked on a wellness initiative to help with dispatchers’ stress levels. Butler said she’s seen improvements in staffing since 2015 because of these changes.
Aurora job openings are posted here.