Kansas City offers $5K signing bonuses amid shortage of 911 dispatchers: ‘Dire measures are needed’

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas appeared on “Fox & Friends” Thursday to address the severe shortage of 911 dispatchers in his city that has forced calls to go on hold, pointing out that “dire measures are needed” such as a $5,000 signing bonus to attract candidates for the positions.

(Video Credit: Fox News)

Kansas City is Missouri’s largest city and is in trouble when it comes to police response times and 911 dispatch service. They just can’t find enough people to man 911 call centers to handle emergencies and it’s a deadly dilemma. The mayor is working feverishly to reverse the trend because lives are on the line.

“It is horrible that we have people that call 911 are sometimes placed in an answering service,” Lucas told “Fox & Friends” host Griff Jenkins. “So you get a voicemail in Kansas City, and they say, ‘Please hold. Your call will be answered.’ It is something that is very serious and significant.”

“And the concern isn’t just from calls that are coming in now, but deterring people from calling 911 when they have an emergency,” he added. “It’s something that we do not want to do, and it’s why we think that dire measures are needed to address this very important issue.”

The average pay for public safety telecommunicators is roughly $46,670 per year or about $22.44 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Lucas is blaming low pay and is promising to remedy that situation for 911 operators that hold other peoples’ lives in their hands. He is offering the $5,000 signing bonus to boost the number of 911 dispatchers, but there are other incentives as well.

“In addition to the other incentives, better hours. So instead of just having to work mandatory overtime, which often happens… particularly if you have children that are very incompatible to being at home, making sure we’re finding more flexible hours for folks,” the mayor noted.

“Making sure we give them better work environments and more than anything, making sure they know that there are good promotional opportunities at the police department and frankly, beyond to the city,” he commented.

Currently, there is a 30 percent shortage nationwide of 911 dispatchers according to the National Emergency Number Association. This comes as crime is skyrocketing across the country.

“I think sometimes it’s overlooked just how hard this job is,” Lucas contended. “You’re on the phone with people in sometimes the most tense situations in their lives and including in life and death situations. Too often I think the pay has been too low. So that’s why we’re trying to say not only will you be paid well, there will there be good benefits, and it will be a good quality of life, but frankly, that we’ll thank them in more ways too.”

“Just in the last few years, we’ve had more attention to the work of law enforcement,” he stated. “I think it’s important that we look to the work of our emergency dispatchers to ensure that they’re also appreciated, both in pay, in support, in benefits.”

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