Amid rumors that the New York Police Department was making officers on duty take 911 calls, the city announced a plan on Friday to hire another 150 staffers for its 911 call centers. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters that the callers will be civilian employees of the NYPD. They will answer calls and dispatch NYDP radio cars.
With about 1,100 people already working in the emergency centers, the city needed to bring in reinforcements after several screwups.
Before Friday’s revelation, there were rumors that the NYPD would have officers take over the calling positions. NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told the AmNews that the plan was discussed, but no decision was made “in the face of inordinate absences on weekends and holidays by call takers.”
But before the NYPD changed course, DC 37’s Executive Director Lillian Roberts voiced her opinion in an emailed statement to the AmNews.
“Taking police officers off the streets to perform this function will not fix the problems of the 911 call system, nor will it make the citizens of New York City any safer,” said Roberts. “In fact, it will make our communities less safe. What’s more, there are currently 200 qualified workers on a civil service list waiting to fill the position of 911 police communications technicians.”
According to New York City Comptroller John Liu’s office, mismanagement and cost overruns by contractors have plagued the upgrade of the system, and the program is currently $1 billion over budget—from $1.3 billion to an estimated $2.3 billion, according to the 2012 Capital Commitment plan put together by the city.
Last month, the New York City Council held a meeting over the glitches in the new 911 system after controversy surrounding the death of 4-year-old Ariel Russo, who was struck by a sports utility vehicle on the Upper West Side earlier this month. Russo’s family believes her death could have been prevented if 911 hadn’t delayed the ambulance’s response time.
Despite all of the issues involving the new 911 system in New York, Roberts understands the need to bulk up the staff.
“There has been a shortage of staffing at the 911 call centers for a long time,” said Roberts in her statement. “This staffing shortage has been a chronic problem for the city, and our members’ ability to do their jobs has only been made more difficult since the new 911 call-taking computer system was implemented. Both the mayor and the NYPD have acknowledged this staffing shortage and committed to training additional 911 operators.”