Dallas police hiring more 911 call takers due to staffing shortage

The city of Dallas held one of two planned hiring events on Friday to increase staffing at its 911 call center.

The Dallas Police Department is short about one quarter of the staff it needs to answer 911 calls.

"I've been seeing the news and I feel this is a call to action," said applicant Marlenne Aleman.

Officials hoped to hire 26 people at Friday's event. It seemed many of the people there were ready to answer the city's call for help. 

"It is a hard job with pressure, but I want to let people know everything is going to be okay," said applicant LaShonda Thomas.

Jim McDade, president of the Dallas Fire Association, says he sees the problem first hand. 

"When we get there, citizens express to us how long they were on hold for, how many times it took to call," he said.

It’s a situation where each minute matters. 

"Every minute is brain activity in CPR. If it is a fire, fire doubles inside every minute," McDade said.

Robert Uribe, the city's administrator of the 911 call center, says 250 Dallas police employees are temporarily helping the call center. He says the extra help along with changes made are easing the problems of people being put on hold or having to call back.

Since the city's 911 call volume has increased, McDade thinks the city also needs to increase the number of call takers in the city's budget.

"We need to know the timeframe for this to be addressed not temporarily, but permanently," he said.

Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata says the shortage of 911 call takers is happening across North Texas.

"Every city is short manpower in call centers," Mata said. "I've talked to Fort Worth, McKinney, Grand Prairie, Mesquite."

Uribe says to be competitive, Dallas is starting pay for call takers at just over $40,000 and providing a $3,000 incentive when a call taker completes their six-month probationary period. 

Once a call taker is licensed they will earn another $1,800 a year. McDade says the new hires can't start soon enough. 

Another job fair happening next Saturday, July 17, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. People can also apply at https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/dallas/jobs/3132850/911-call-taker-trainee-dallas-hiring-event.