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Cincinnati Making Progress On Emergency Communications Staffing

Cincinnati Police Department

Cincinnati officials say they've shaved five weeks off the time it takes to hire call takers and dispatchers for the city's emergency communications center (ECC). But the process from someone applying to actually getting a job still takes 14 weeks.  It used to be 19 weeks.

Right now the center is 20 people short. That includes vacancies for three supervisors, 10 dispatchers and seven 911 call takers.  But that's better than last year, when it was 34 short.  The goal is to be fully staffed by next summer.  

ECC Deputy Director Bill Vedra spoke to council's Law and Public Safety Committee Tuesday.

"So what we've learned through all of this is that it's critical for the ECC to be constantly hiring and training that we cannot let our foot off the gas in terms of bringing new staff into the center," Vedra said. "Because the moment that we rest we will have downstream consequences. So we're working on keeping that process constant."

Vedra said the government hiring process takes time and then for ECC staff there's extensive training after getting a job.

"It's a nine- to 10-month process from the time they come in the door until the time that they are able to become a beneficial number, someone who's working on their own," Vedra said. "So together between hiring and training it is well over a year from the time someone applies to the time that they're working by themselves."

The city changed to online testing for applicants and streamlined background checks to speed up the hiring process.  

City officials have been focusing on the communications center since April 2018 after 16-year-old Kyle Plush died after getting trapped in his minivan in a school parking lot.  He called 911 twice asking for help, but police never found him.  

The Plush family is now suing the city for those missteps.

Besides working on staffing, ECC officials have made changes to training and assigning a full-time person to work with staff on quality assurance reviews.

The city is also updating technology and furniture at the city's backup communications facility located at the former Spinney Field. In addition, the city can now accept "text-to-911"  and will soon implement "RapidSOS."  That will allow call takers get a better location for people calling 911.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.