The Boston Police Department (BPD) is desperate for dispatchers and 911 call-takers as more leave the job and staff reaches dangerously low levels.
Sean Murphy, a former BPD dispatcher, left to work for SEIU 888, the union that represents the workers, and said that many employees are leaving due to exhaustion from lack of support.
“A lot of long-term people like myself have decided that they’re tired of waiting for them to do the right thing,” Murphy said of the police department. “There’s been an extreme rate probably over the past year or so.”
Murphy and 888’s business manager Neil O’Brien said the reason for the staffing shortage is simply that the police department did not hire new staff, leading to current employees becoming overworked.
“The department completely and totally fell down on hiring. They’re in dire straits,” O’Brien told the Boston Herald.
As the department increased staff overtime, more workers left, creating a vicious cycle.
O’Brien said the BPD had to start running 12-hour shifts for its dispatchers and call takers to keep all the time slots covered, which lead to huge increase in resignations.
The union said BPD is short 26 call-takers and 12 dispatchers. Even veteran employees who worked 15 to 20 years and needed 25 for a full pension quit.
So that should be one indicator of how things are,” Murphy said.
Boston Police Sgt. Detective John Boyle, a department spokesman, said that although there have been some “unforeseen” resignations, BPD has aggressively pushed to fill the positions. As of writing, several people have been hired and are undergoing training.
“Our 911 call-takers and dispatchers are definitely stepping up to the plate,” Boyle said. “We appreciate all the work that they do. It’s a very difficult job, and their hard work and professionalism has not gone unnoticed.”
He then encouraged those interested in applying to visit the city’s employment website.
Boyle denied that the staffing shortages are causing public safety issues, declaring that the extra shifts are sufficient, and if there is a surge of calls, they are rerouted to Boston Fire and state police call-takers. Boyle did acknowledge that shortages of 911 dispatchers have become a national trend.
Murphy said that even in the best of times, being a dispatcher is a tough job.
“It’s a very stressful job — I mean people burn out all the time,” Murphy said. The call-takers in particular have to deal with hearing about “murders, suicides, how to administer CPR — any negative thing you can imagine comes across those phone lines.”