KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City Police Commissioners say they are unhappy with the wait times people report when calling 911.
Kansas City Police say that when 911 callers have to wait to speak to someone, the average wait time is just 27 seconds.
“I just don’t think the evidence for what regular people tell me is 27 seconds,” Commissioner Mark Tolbert said during Tuesday’s board meeting.
Police commissioners say they have heard from callers who say they had to wait much longer. When people call 911 for help and instead hear a recording telling them to wait, chances are their first impression of the Kansas City Police is not a good one.
“This is how the community contacts us. And if we don’t have people answering those phones, then the people who need help aren’t going to get help,” Commissioner Cathy Dean said.
“So, I want all of our people to be paid well and taken care of, but we have to have people saying ‘911’ and ‘we’ll be there.'”
With starting pay of nearly $20.50 an hour, split-second decision makers like call handlers and dispatchers say raising pay would help attract more job applicants. The Kansas City Police currently has 34 open positions for EMS responders and dispatchers.
“I keep saying we could increase it more and that would definitely attract more people, I think, because this is a very difficult job and not everyone can do it,” said Tamara Bazzle, communications training supervisor at the KCPD.
“To remain competitive, not just with other agencies, but with other organizations throughout the KC area. I think it’s definitely important to increase our pay.”
Police say they have made eight applicants job offers to fill open 911 call center jobs, including two who were just hired on Monday. Police are also offering $500 bonuses to current employees if they can help recruit friends or family members to join them.
Police commissioners say response times should include the time callers wait on hold, with the aim of eliminating wait times altogether.