Juneau police announced this week that it will not be hosting the annual Junior Police Academy this summer due to staffing shortages.
Police explained that when school let out earlier this month, the school resource officers were moved to the understaffed dispatch unit to help out there.
Those school resource officers are the ones who run the academy, and they couldn’t be two places at once, police stated on their website in an “Ask a Dispatcher” posting.
The reassignment of those officers is actually part of a new strategy to cross-train police officers from different divisions to help out the dispatch unit, which answers 911 calls and dispatches police and fire units where they need to go.
The idea is for police officers to be trained in a dispatch position then work there for a few months. After that, officers will be able to pick up overtime shifts in dispatch, or fill in during a staffing emergency.
“This is a new idea for JPD but (it) does happen in other areas,” the statement read. “Our own chief had a dispatch rotation in his prior department.”
The new strategy is supposed to help JPD “turn the tide” so that both experienced dispatchers and new hires, who regularly work 60 hours a week, aren’t being overworked and are more likely to stay.
Dispatchers frequently get burned out by the long hours and demanding schedules, and the turnover rate was staggering, police said.
Juneau Police Department administrative manager Cindee Brown-Mills, who oversees the communication center, told the Empire in an earlier interview that the dispatch unit has been chronically understaffed for about the past 10 years.
The Communication Center provides communication services for the police and fire departments as well as other city, state and federal agencies. It has to be staffed 24 hours a day with a minimum of two dispatchers in the center at all times.
Once more officers are trained to help in dispatch and more dispatchers are hired, JPD plans on hosting programs like the Junior Police Academy again.
“We are all keeping our fingers crossed for next summer,” the statement said.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.