RCPD seeing significant improvements in retention of dispatchers

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Dispatchers at work in the Riley County Communications Center in this 2019 file photo. Photo courtesy Hali Rowland/RCPD

Retention rates for Riley County dispatchers have improved significantly since 2019, according to a report from Riley County Police Department Director Dennis Butler.

“I expected it to take about two years to achieve the gains that you’re seeing in this report, which has cut our vacancy rate in half,” Butler told Riley County Law Board members Tuesday. “I really thought it would take longer to get where we are now, but I’m very pleased and we’re continuing to make progress.”

The Riley County Law Board in December 2019 approved a new $34,000 recruitment and retention plan to combat turnover within the Communications Center.

The plan reclassified positions into two tiers, splitting duties and training levels as well as new pay grades and elevating salaries for the remaining positions.

“It was also re-classifying dispatchers from just a call-taker to a full dispatcher. By doing that, there was less pressure on those new employees to learn everything, and it takes about about nine months for them to learn their job,” Butler said.

The average total vacancy dropped from 5.67 employees in 2019 to just 2.42 employees in 2020. The average number of fully trained Dispatcher II employees also increased from 16.2 to 17.3 in that same time frame.

“We have had some hiring processes in the last year where we’ve hired a group and it really didn’t work out well for that group. The last group that we hired has really hit it out of the ballpark. They’re doing very well,” Butler said.

In other business Tuesday, the Law Board received an update on the ongoing firearms range planning. RCPD plans to move into the new range later this year.

“We anticipate a turnover date of March 15 and we are beginning preparations for some sort of ceremony out at the range around that time,” said RCPD Capt. Josh Kyle.

The move-in date has been delayed several months since RCPD’s lease on the range expired last June. Riley County Commissioners in late December approved a final easement through adjacent properties and a building on site is under construction.

Commission Chair and new law board member John Ford thanked the police department for its patience and says he believes it will be a welcome addition for the department.

“I know we didn’t get it quite done as quickly as maybe we wanted to, so you had to work out some other things in the meantime. It’s been a really interesting project and that’s kind of saying it politely at this point in time,” he said.

Tuesday’s Law Board meeting marked the first meeting of 2021 and as a result saw three new members were sworn in.

Ford and Kathryn Focke are the two sitting representatives from the Riley County Commission.

Linda Morse, who was elected as chair of the board during the meeting, serves as the city’s lone representative in 2021. The other new face is Patricia Hudgins, representing one of the city at-large spots on the board.

Joining them is Robert Ward, a reappointment for the county at-large position. Ward will serve as vice chair of the law board. BeAtta Stoney was reappointed to the other city at-large seat. Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson, by statute, continues on the board.

The three members who rotated off the board included Manhattan Mayor Wynn Butler, former Riley County Commissioner Marvin Rodriguez and Craig Beardsley. Each were recognized with a plaque for their service to the board.

Also of note at Tuesday’s meeting:

  • Officer Mark Cusimano also received a meritorious service award for his role in a medical crisis last August involving a 6-year-old girl who was believed to be choking on a piece of candy. The child’s father was attempting to dislodge the obstruction using the Heimlich maneuver, but was ineffective until Officer Cusimano showed up and provided proper instructions and soon thereafter the child began breathing freely.
  • Lt. Joshua Spencer received his pin after a recent promotion Dec. 27. He was joined by family members and wife Breva Spencer. He has been employed with RCPD since 2012. He serves as a watch commander at the Riley County Jail.
  • Director Butler presented the first look at the 2022 budget preparation timeline which clarifies the budget must be published in the Manhattan Mercury no later than June 11, with a public hearing scheduled for June 21, with final approval presented on or before July 5 to both the Manhattan City and Riley County Commissions.

 

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Brandon Peoples

KMAN News Director and host of In Focus. Contact Brandon at Brandon@1350KMAN.com

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