Albuquerque 911 operators blame longer wait times on understaffing

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque 911 operators say they’re overworked and understaffed, leading to longer wait times on the phone and longer police responses in the field.

They answer when you call 911, but Michael Dorin, President of the Albuquerque Clerical Union, says low pay (they start at $17 an hour), along with the stress of answering emergency calls nonstop, takes its toll on employees.

“The stress of the job is enormous,” Dorin said. “You’re always talking to somebody on their worst day and you’re doing that 25 times a day.”

The Albuquerque Emergency Management office takes 911 calls for the Albuquerque Police Department and AFR. Dorin says on average, they receive 3,500 calls a day. Even with about 100 employees answering calls, they are still short about 25.

“The turnover rate is actually very high. Within the first year, people are deciding that it might not be for them,” Dorin said.

It’s also the long hours. Dorin says most employees have to work doubles at least once a week.

“Somebody will come in expecting to work an eight hour shift, and then be told, sometimes at the last minute, that nope, you’re working a 16-hour shift,” Dorin said.

The short staffing is also leaving callers on hold. “Some people may experience some wait time when they dial 911,” Dorin said.

Usually, they get to 911 calls right away more than 90 percent of the time. That’s been dropping into the 80s recently.

APD counters the Union’s claims, saying they’re only short about 18 operators and dispatchers, and six new hires are on the way. The Union says those will be the first new hires since September.

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