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Police department in need of dispatchers

Communications center only 50% staffed, official says

Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2008

While police officers are now staffed at nearly 90 percent, the Juneau Police Department is in serious need of dispatchers, Sgt. Dave Campbell said.

Only 50 percent of the department's dispatch jobs are filled, Campbell said.

At the moment, overtime is essential to staff the communications center at a level required to place police, ambulance and fire personnel at various locations as needed.

Dispatchers currently work 60-hour weeks to make sure calls get answered and police and fire personnel remain well-orchestrated 24 hours a day, Campbell said.

In 2006 and 2007, Juneau police hired eight people for dispatch. Only three remain in the communications center.

They leave for various reasons, Campbell said. The shifts are long and those without seniority work nights and weekends, handling calls that can be stressful.

But, for the right person, dispatch is a great job with good pay and benefits, he said.

This month Christy Keliihoomalu, hired in 2006, is working six days a week, 12 hours a day, to help fill the gaps. She's looking forward to a full staff.

The job of dispatcher is described as a fluctuating mix of busy and slow times, with 911 calls coming in for the three types of emergency services offered.

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"There is a lot of multitasking, but I enjoy the job," Keliihoomalu said.

The calls go beyond police work into other emergencies. Juneau dispatchers are trained for medical 911 calls and can provide some medical assistance over the phone.

"We've had two or three babies delivered over the phone in the last few years," Campbell said.

New dispatchers will be trained in a 14-week academy style course.

Until the needed people are hired and trained, several officers and one civilian who are former dispatchers share the dispatch workload.

"It's like robbing Peter to pay Paul," Campbell said.

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.



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