Dallas police increasing 911 dispatch center staffing

The Dallas Police Department is addressing the 911 dispatch staffing shortage that has led to delays in response time to some priority calls.

The department says it is adding and moving staff around to beef up the emergency call center and getting more employees to work overtime.

In recent weeks, the department reported the center was operating about 25% below full staffing.

Dallas PD says 18 additional 911 call takers were assigned Monday, but we know there are ongoing issues with dispatch that the city is working to address.

Over the weekend, eight people were shot and wounded, including a 10 and a 15-year-old, during a gun battle between two groups holding events in East Dallas.

A family member of several shooting victims says they were on hold with 911 for so long that they eventually drove each other to a hospital.

READ MORE: 2 kids among 8 shot after fight between groups at separate birthday, graduation parties in Dallas

Dallas City Council and Public Safety Committee member Cara Mendelsohn says there’s a significant shortage of dispatch employees. They’ve had fewer calls this year, but response times are dragging.

"In the year-to-date calls, we’ve actually gone down to the number of calls that are coming in to 911. But the timeframes for answering the calls have gone up significantly," she explained. "It’s just over an extra minute for a priority 1 call, but that is the worst minute of your life. That is a life or death moment."

Priority 2 calls are experiencing nearly 15 additional minutes of wait time. Some lower-level calls are experiencing more than two hours of added wait time before officers arrive on scene.

"So, what’s the answer? The answer is staffing, for all of this," Mendelsohn said. "It’s staffing for 911 and it’s staffing for our police officers to be able to respond."

Dallas PD sent a letter to city council members and staff Monday, reading that it’s adding staff, moving field patrol trainees and recruits to 911 staffing and even offering overtime opportunities to ones working at nearby call centers outside of Dallas. 

Mendelsohn is in favor of pay raises, believing the stress of dispatch and policing is only getting worse with violent crime on the rise.

"You’re constantly listening to people who are going through trauma who are going through very, very difficult times," she said.

Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement saying: "I am saddened and deeply frustrated by the continued staffing problems at the 911 call center. I am counting on our city manager to correct these issues immediately. Our residents expect and deserve to have their emergency calls answered in a timely manner."