Dispatchers from the were on hand at the April 10 Police Commission meeting to address the upcoming retirement of Phyllis Dunphy and how it will impact their workload.
Chief Matthew Canelli explained that he received Dunphy’s letter notifying the department that she would be retiring effective May 11. He, in turn, contacted the about filling the position.
“On Dec. 20, I wrote to the Town Manager’s office saying we should start searching for a telecommunications operator, but I didn’t hear anything back,” said Canelli. “I wrote again on Jan. 17 and Feb. 15 and still didn’t hear anything.”
Lieutenant David D’Ancicco explained that dispatchers have almost 100 hours of required training with some classes only being offered at certain times throughout the year.
In order to make up for Dunphy’s 40-hour position, some police officers, who are certified as dispatchers, could take shifts as overtime and current dispatchers could pick up more shifts. However, D’Ancicco explained, to have an officer fill the 40-hour shift would cost $1,941.20, which is above the cost of $1,424 to fill the shift with a dispatcher.
“Based on the lack of manpower to fill those slots, the dispatchers have requested to speak tonight,” said Canelli. “The problem is that we have to fill 40 hours a week until somebody is hired or this is resolved. There is a lot of overtime coming up for roadwork [for the officers] so most of burden will fall on current dispatchers. We have just seen the town go through a where the Council is struggling to save dollars, but this will costs tens of thousands of dollars until we fill it.”
Dispatcher Richard Wesley spoke for the group, which will be made up of three full-time dispatchers and one part-time dispatcher after Dunphy retires.
“We have no problem working OT, but we’re talking about 40 hours a week that would be taken by 3 ½ people, which does not include vacations or sick days,” he said. “We’re just looking for your support for us to see we have what we need to function. We’re at bare minimum as it is.”
Wesley stated concern that the hiring process has not begun as, in addition to the mandated training, the new hire would also have to learn the processes at the North Branford Police Department.
Commission Chairman Dave Palumbo agreed that the hiring process needed to begin, while Town Council member Vin Caprio, liaison to the Police Commission, said he would contact Town Manager Richard Branigan to check on the progress in the hiring process.
“We’re at the 11th hour and we need to do something–we certainly don’t want you guys to burn the candle at both ends, for a safety factor and your own personal lives,” said Palumbo. “I just want to thank you for the job you are doing for us and the community. You are the first line for all those guys and we will work on it diligently to do what we have to do for you.”
The Commission then discussed other options to alleviate the strain on the dispatchers’ workload in the meantime, including hiring per diem dispatchers or hiring an applicant who has already completed the mandated training.
Palumbo said the Commission will be seeking the Town Council’s blessing to either fill the position or find a lateral.
“We’re 30 days imminent to this retirement so we are going to hit with a 40 hour a week shortage, but the question is how long are we going to deal with it,” said D’Ancicco.