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Thursday, July 18, 2024
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    HomePoliticsSt. Louis personnel panel endorses new entry-level 911 dispatcher position | Politics

    St. Louis personnel panel endorses new entry-level 911 dispatcher position | Politics

    ST. LOUIS  — The city’s Civil Service Commission on Tuesday voted to create a new entry-level 911 dispatcher position requiring lesser qualifications as part of a plan by Mayor Tishaura O. Jones’ administration to reduce delays in answering 911 calls.

    “Hopefully it allows us to get more applicants in the door,” Interim Public Safety Director Dan Isom told the panel.

    But the St. Louis Police Officers Association, the union representing many of the current city dispatchers, said the new job category and related issues should be a subject of negotiation and indicated that it may file a lawsuit over the matter.

    Local 73 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which represents other dispatchers, also says it should be involved in those talks. Both unions say they support the need to improve the city’s dispatching system.

    “We’re completely in the dark on what their plans are,” Jeff Roorda, the police union’s business manager, said in an interview.

    At the meeting, Isom and John Unnerstall, human resources manager for the city personnel department, said creation of the entry-level position isn’t subject to bargaining because it’s a new slot that won’t affect existing union employees.

    “This would have no impact on incumbent workers,” Isom said of the new position. “They’re still going to receive police, EMS and fire equipment calls to be dispatched. It’s not going to change their job in any way.”

    The new entry-level dispatchers wouldn’t have to meet the current minimum requirement of at least one year working in customer service or previous experience as a dispatcher. 

    Under the city’s system, all 911 calls are first directed to the police 911 center. Calls for EMS and firefighters are then rerouted, sometimes resulting in delays. Isom said the new entry-level dispatchers would “share the responsibility of the initial intake of calls.”

    The commission approved the new job class, 3-0, subject to possible modifications by the city counselor’s office. That caveat was included after commission member Dean Kpere-Daibo asked about issues raised in a letter received by the panel.

    He didn’t say who the letter was from, but Roorda, the police union official, in a strongly-worded email to the commission last week warned of possible litigation over the lack of negotiations on the issue. Roorda called the proposal “a slipshod plan to co-mingle” three operations that will result in even longer delays.

    Isom, however, said there will be negotiations with the unions on another key part of the administration’s plan — putting all police and EMS dispatchers in the same job classification.

    That would eliminate pay disparities between the existing police and EMS dispatcher positions and also create a new cross-training position that could take calls for both, mayoral spokesman Nick Dunne said.

    Although the commission on Tuesday also voted to create those two additional classifications, Dunne said they are subject to union negotiations.

    Dunne said the city currently has about 40 dispatcher vacancies. Minimum industry standards call for 90% of 911 calls to be answered within 10 seconds but monthly city totals from September through February averaged only 60% of 911 calls answered that quickly.

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