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Dispatchers dial up pressure on city over depleted ranks

January 27, 2022

The Boston Police Department ‘completely and totally fell down on hiring.’

Local 888 is demanding the city of Boston do more to retain and recruit both 911 dispatchers and call-takers as their numbers have thinned to dangerous levels.
“We’re calling on the City Council to get involved,” said Local 888 President Tom McKeever. “There had been 42 dispatchers, now it’s down to about 26. Dispatchers are being forced to work excessive double shifts. This isn’t good for the dispatchers and it’s not safe for the city.”
Similarly, the ranks of the call-takers have thinned as well from having more than 60 and now down to about 45. The dispatchers and call-takers, a different but related job, work for the Boston Police Department.
Sean Murphy, a former BPD dispatcher who now works as a Local 888 organizer, told the Boston Herald that he’s one of the multiple dispatchers and call takers who have left the department.
“A lot of long-term people like myself have decided that they’re tired of waiting for them to do the right thing,” said Murphy, referring to BPD management.
He told the Herald that it’s gotten so bad that even people who’ve put in 15 or 20 years of the 25 needed for a full pension are calling it quits. “That would be one indicator of how things are,” he said.
“The department completely and totally fell down on hiring,” added Neal O’Brien, senior Local 888 organizer. “They’re in dire straits.”
One of the key issues is that wages have not kept pace with Boston’s skyrocketing housing costs. According to a Boston Herald report, Boston may soon surpass San Francisco in terms of housing costs. That would make Boston the second-most expensive U.S. city, after New York.
With that in mind, Local 888 is calling on Boston to ease its residency rule — to open up the pool of candidates.
One upgrade that would help Boston to retain these essential personnel would be to improve the pensions being offered. McKeever said that this would “help both in the recruitment of new employees and the retention of skilled personnel.”
In addition, the union wants the city to classify 911 personnel as “first responders,” which would allow them access to funding for trauma-related resources and the peer support/critical-incident stress programs.
Reforming the hiring process is also crucial. The civilian candidates should not be held to such a lengthy process that it can take six months to a year for someone to merely start a training program. On top of that, the training process has been extended from four to eight weeks — until now it can take six months for each new hire.
This is making it more difficult for the city to fill positions.