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Aiming to improve Fresno’s lagging 911 wait times, council turns to baseball

Here’s a look inside the job of a Fresno police dispatcher

A tour of Fresno Police Department's dispatch center which services other emergency agencies beyond city police. Fresno Police Department's dispatchers struggle to meet demands of calls.
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A tour of Fresno Police Department's dispatch center which services other emergency agencies beyond city police. Fresno Police Department's dispatchers struggle to meet demands of calls.

Fresno City Council unanimously voted Thursday to add eight new dispatchers to Fresno Police Department, using $1.9 million received through the sale of a city parking lot to the Fresno Grizzlies.

The joint proposal came from Council President Esmeralda Soria, who represents District 1, and Councilman Garry Bredefeld, who represents District 6.

Police Chief Jerry Dyer told the council in June dispatchers in his department struggled to meet the state’s requirement to answer 95 percent of 911 calls within 15 seconds due to low staffing and a growing call volume. The council at that time pledged to add dispatch positions when money became available.

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On Thursday, council members made good on their word.

“Our residents’ safety must remain our high priority and we will continue to look for opportunities to further improve our services,” Soria said.

Bredefeld brought up how some residents experienced long hold times when calling 911, calling it “unacceptable.”

“Hiring these dispatchers will ensure that our citizens who need emergency services will no longer have to fear not having their call answered immediately or have to wait minutes to get help,” he said.

The hiring may begin as early as February or March so the new dispatchers will be fully trained and ready to work independently by summer, said Jeff Cardell, the city’s personnel director.

The city currently employs 87 dispatchers, of which about 20 percent are undergoing training, said Lt. David Newton, the department’s communications bureau manager. While the new positions are a big help, the department needs nearly 50 more dispatchers to meet the state’s standards, he said.

“Obviously the City Council is moving resolutely toward improving our response to emergencies in the community,” he said.

The $1.9 million that made the move possible came from the city’s sale of an H Street parking lot to the Fresno Grizzlies last month.

The money originally was marked for the city’s asset sale reserve fund to be used over a 5-10 year period. The cost to fund the positions in the next fiscal year will be $176,000. In following years, the positions will be paid by money in the city’s asset sale reserve fund.

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