Marion County dispatchers having to cover multiple districts due to staff shortage

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Marion County is having a hard time keeping dispatchers and it’s starting to cause major trouble. FOX59 has learned sometimes during the day there are only one or two dispatchers in control of five different districts.

Because of this, it’s impacting wait times and the number of hours dispatchers are working.

City Councilman Frank Mascari said the problem is once they hire and train new dispatchers, they leave the county to go make more money somewhere else.

He said it’s difficult to keep people around. He said the county is currently short 40 dispatchers.

"There’s no simple way of solving it. It’s funding. The city of Indianapolis budgets $1 million and public safety is 69 percent of it," said District 21 City County Council member Frank Mascari.

He said if you call 911 and are forced to wait, don’t hang up because it’s going to make your wait time that much longer.

The Marion County Sheriff's Office tells FOX59 the staffing levels at the MCSO Dispatch Center have been severely strained due to salary levels that are not competitive with other public safety answering points in Indiana.

The 911 operators in Marion County are paid 10 percent to 35 percent less than surrounding counties.

The sheriff's office said due to low salaries, the turn over at the center has been higher than desired. They said employees who are trained in Marion County frequently leave to work at neighboring centers where the pay is higher and the number of emergency calls is markedly lower.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said they've worked for years to increase the salaries for dispatchers and those modest increases have not been sufficient to stem turnover at the center.

Sheriff John Layton said he and his staff have been working with IMPD Chief Bryan Roach and the Office of Finance and Management to resolve the issues at the center and ensure that requests for help through 911 calls and radio communications from law enforcement are honored in a timely manner.

“We simply cannot continue paying our dispatchers at rates that are not competitive,” said Sheriff Layton.

“Our 911 operators have done a tremendous job in ensuring the safety of the public, but we must increase the compensation for these jobs. Otherwise we will continue our practice of serving as a training ground for other central Indiana answering points," said Sheriff Layton.

The starting salary for a dispatcher in Marion County is about $32,000 a year.

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