St. Joseph Co. dispatchers hold rally for more hires
Nearly 10,000 calls to 911 went unanswered in St. Joseph County last year, and dispatchers are fighting to change that.
They started a petition through their union, AFSCME Local 164, to hire more dispatchers, saying they are understaffed and overworked. Several studies have been conducted (two by the St. Joseph County Public Safety Communications Center and one by AFSCME) that recommend 99 dispatchers on the floor, but the union believes a minimum of 78 will be sufficient for the workload to be manageable and effective. Right now, they have 63.
On Tuesday, they held a rally in downtown South Bend. They chatted with people walking by, held signs to the downtown traffic, and led chants of "we can't wait for 78!"
At the event, dispatchers described to NewsCenter 16 the conditions under which they've been working recently: shifts lasting as long as 16 hours, little to no break time and a frenzied work environment with dispatchers constantly hustling to stay on top of incoming calls.
On September 7th, Union President and 911 Dispatcher Michael Clayton says they plan to meet with the county's 911 Executive Board, made up of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood, and County Commissioner Andy Kostielney. If the board approves a change in resources, Clayton says it also has to be approved by individual city councils before new hires can be mandated.