The Dallas Police Department held an all-day hiring event Friday for 911 call takers at police headquarters.
In June, Dallas officials made more demands and more promises for improvement at the 911 call center after it took almost 12 minutes for police to answer the first of the calls seeking help for the stabbing of two people.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the Dallas 911 call center is a problem that needs to be fixed immediately.
“Answering the phone when someone calls 911 in a life and death situation is something you have to get right, and we're going to get it right,” Johnson said.
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The slow response to the June 22 stabbing, which included a 7-year-old girl, was the latest slow response in a long list of problems for Dallas's 911 call center that date back to when former Mayor Mike Rawlings took office in 2012.
“The ability or inability for a city to provide a 911 responder or someone that answers that phone is simply putting someone’s life on the line. Period. End of story,” Associate Dean of the School of Criminology at Tarleton State University Alex del Carmen said. “It’s not something that we have the luxury to look the other way.”
Del Carmen said filling the pressure-filled positions could prove to be challenging if communities feel distrust in policing.
It is important for cities to be aggressive in recruiting and in building packages with incentives to fill jobs.
A full-time Dallas 911 call taker trainee is paid between $33,382 - $40,658 annually, according to a city of Dallas job listing for the event.
In addition to salaries over $40,000, Uribe says new hires would receive a $3,000 bonus after their probationary period ends. There is also an extra $150 a month for operators who speak Spanish.
“I think $40,000 in the city of Dallas today for that kind of a job, seems to me like a little low,” del Carmen said. “My hope is that not only Dallas but other cities are able to start paying aggressively, individuals that are going to be putting, in many ways, their emotional wellbeing on the line for others.”
Rawlings said he asked the city to staff up the 911 call center when he became mayor in 2012.
There will be another job fair for 911 call takers on July 17, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at DPD headquarters.