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Applications flood in, as Abilene desperately seeks police, fire dispatchers

By Ariana Garza, Weekend Anchor/Crime & Courts Reporter, agarza@ktxs.com
Published On: Jun 20 2013 08:08:49 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 21 2013 03:41:26 PM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

Applications to become Abilene police and fire dispatchers flooded in Friday after a KTXS story indicated the city currently is about a dozen short and actively hiring full-time positions.

According to Assistant Police Chief Doug Wrenn, Communications Manager Wayne Brandt – as of noon Friday – was “culling through 73 applications” for public safety dispatch openings.

“This is as many as they normally get in the entire process – and we are only a few days in to it,” Wrenn said.

Brandt said he and other supervisors typically hire four to six dispatchers every six to eight months due to the position’s high turnover rate. Currently, however, the city is 10 to 11 dispatchers short.

Even if the positions were immediately filled, the newly hired dispatchers would not be able to fully perform their duties until completing a six-month long training process.

Police Chief Stan Standridge said the job is absolutely necessary to serve the community. Since the police call load increased 13.4 percent from 2005 to 2012, Standridge plans to ask city council to reclassify two part-time dispatch positions to full-time in the 2014 budget.

“In the last year alone, in 2012, a citizen called 911 every 6.7 minutes,” Standridge said. “They called the non-emergency lines every 2.7 minutes. So in 2012, they processed more than 319,000 calls for service. That's inclusive of police, fire and EMS. So the communications division is incredibly busy.”

Brandt said the reclassification is necessary because part-time communications employees are only trained to answer calls and cannot relieve the dispatchers who are trained in fire, police service channel and primary police dispatch.

Brandt said hard workers who are 18 or older, have a high school diploma or equivalent and are able to type at least 40 words per minute should apply. The starting salary is $23,000 to $24,000.

“There's any number of things that make this job difficult, but they also make it rewarding as well,” Brandt said. “Probably the most difficult for most people is the shift work and the up and down level of stress to boredom. Because one minute you're just going crazy with incoming calls and then an hour later you're sitting there twiddling your thumbs because there's nothing happening.”