FERGUSON, Mo. (KMOX) – Some police dispatchers who recently left the department in Ferguson say the safety of that city’s officers, and citizens, is increasingly at risk.
Shannon Dandridge struggled to keep her composure at times as she told Ferguson City Council members Tuesday night why she recently decided to resign her dispatcher job after 13 years with the department.
“We’ve hit a critical point and I see no end in sight,” Dandridge explained. “I don’t feel at this point we can properly staff the dispatch center and keep the community and officers safe. Something needs to be done immediately.”
She said she was in charge of the dispatch center budget and was given enough resources to have seven full-time and 10 part-time dispatchers on the job through the end of the last fiscal year.
But as of July 1st, Dandridge said her budget was reduced to five full-time and unlimited part-time dispatchers.
She claimed it has resulted in fatigue for full-time dispatchers who no longer get breaks and can’t even leave the room during their shift – setting the stage for mistakes to happen and someone, an officer or a citizen, to get hurt.
Dandridge cited a recent incident in which a 911 call for an overturned car came in with only one dispatcher on duty.
She claims due to the overflow of several 911 calls they were not all answered, and officers, ambulance personnel and fire officials were sent to the wrong location because the first caller gave the incorrect location.
“I feel like the entire police and fire department were used as pawns in a game of ‘Pass The Utility Tax’,” Dandridge told council members, referring to this month’s passage of Prop U. “We had hiring freezes, although the money was in the budget for hiring dispatchers and police officers. So was the intentional shortage a way to show the community how short we were in order to get them to vote for the tax increase? Rumor has it the city used the shortage of the officers and the threat of closing Fire House Two as a sympathy getter to get the votes needed to pass the tax.”
Prop U increased the city of Ferguson’s utility tax by 2 percent to raise an extra $700,000 annually.
Ferguson Police Chief Delrish Moss, who became head of the Ferguson PD three months ago, rejected her claim that figures for his department had been manipulated to pass Prop U.
“We’ve made it pretty public that we are in the process of hiring 14 officers,” Moss told KMOX News. “But one of the things that we want to make sure that we do is be careful about the officers that we hire. Police chiefs are up at night because police officers make bad decisions, and one of the things that we want to do is we want to hire the right police officers.”
And that process takes time, he concluded.
He did admit that they are currently down to a total of 36 officers on the force when the desired level would be 54, but he hopes to reach that goal “soon.”
“But I don’t think that safety has been compromised at this point,” he said. “I think that we’re doing a pretty decent job with the staff that we have.”
(TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)