RPD looking to hire more dispatchers amid staffing crisis

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Between the pandemic and retirements, staffing has been tough for many law enforcement agencies.

The Rochester Police Department has not only been short officers, but also dispatchers.

RPD is getting back to hiring most of its needed dispatchers, but every person counts when answering these sometimes life or death calls.

Dispatchers are the first ones to pick up the phone when someone calls 911. But they’re sometimes the last to find out how a situation unfolds.

“We all like to know what happens at the end of a book, we sometimes don’t find out in dispatch,” Nicole Bacigalupo, a 911 dispatcher, supervisor and trainer for RPD, said.

Bacigalupo has been a dispatcher for eight years. She started her career in Dodge County.

She said with RPD being short on dispatchers, it puts an extra strain on an already-stressful job.

“So we’re maybe sometimes working with four people at night or five people during the day when we’re supposed to have six or seven so that just puts an extra strain on the call takers not necessarily being able to answer those calls in a super quick or efficient manner. So the phone lines sometimes ring a little bit longer. We try to get to all of those as quick as we can, but that’s just an added stress when we’re short-staffed to try and get those lines answered as quick as we can,” she said.

Bacigalupo said a call rarely goes unanswered, but there’s still that added pressure when there are not as many people there to pick up the phone.

Being a dispatcher isn’t just about taking care of others. As a dispatcher or any first responder, you also have to take care of yourself.

“We want to protect ourselves so that we can help the public too,” she said. “To be able to maintain our logical decision making while someone is potentially having the worst day of their life or there’s a crisis happening, or there’s a crash or someone’s hacing a medical emergency. It’s huge to be able to come in and keep a clear mind and keep that calm.”

Bacigalupo said RPD Dispatch starts teaching the mental health aspect of being a dispatcher from day one of training.

“I don’t think it’s talked about widely but dispatch does put a huge stress on people’s mental health. It can. That’s one of those things where dispatchers have to be resilient, we have to pay attention to our mental health,” she said. “There’s a lot of calls that stick with us.”

When training to become a dispatcher with RPD, you go through a nine to 12-week, sometimes a bit longer, training process where you learn how to multitask and how to take calls.

“Those details are so important that the training can be very stressful but with anything that’s hard, it’s generally worth it in the end,” Bacigalupo said. “We do truly care as dispatchers. We couldn’t do this job without caring and we all truly do.”

RPD is currently looking to hire one more dispatchers to be fully staffed at 21. If you are interested, click here.