Fairfield police chief wants to transition to full-time emergency dispatch center

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There are 11 municipal police departments in Butler County.

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield’s police chief is asking City Council to approve adding two officers and converting the six part-time dispatch positions to full-time in order to improve efficiencies.

If the request is approved, the city would have 65 sworn police officers and 16 full-time dispatchers to increase minimum dispatch staffing to three per shift.

“I think that’s where we need to be,” police Chief Steve Maynard said.

The big need is to convert the dispatch from 10 full-time and six part-time positions ― which only two part-time spots are filled ― to 16 full-time positions.

Today the city’s dispatch center has a minimum of two dispatchers per shift focusing on police, fire and emergency medical runs. He said the center needs three dispatchers at minimum as police and fire calls have been increasing for the past several years, from 32,200 in 2011 to 41,600 in 2019.

“Your dispatchers are your lifeline,” said Maynard. “It’s a very chaotic and stressful job. Finding someone that is organized, level-headed, and can think on their feet, deal with stress, it’s not easy.”

The city’s dispatch center runs 24 hours, seven days a week with 12 dispatchers. Most calls to the dispatch center are for administrative work required by dispatchers, such as entries for missing persons and warrants, training new dispatchers (a five-month process), enter information into the Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS), and validate the thousands of warrants on file.

Councilman Mark Scharringhausen said he appreciates the chief’s quick assessment and presentation after the early December mayday call during a fatal house fire ruled an accident on Chateau Way. An oxygen tank exploded and the two firefighters in the house during the explosion were disoriented but not injured. Resident Otis Eversole, 73, was in the home during the explosion and died at the hospital.

Two dispatchers were on duty that night.

“You realized you had a problem and you moved quickly,” said Scharringhausen. “Dispatching is the unsung heroes of the police department. Things could be really screwed up if they’re improperly dispatched. These folks carry a big burden.”

Maynard also wants to take two senior police officers to the investigations unit in order to solve more cases. In recent years, the city cut its special investigations unit to put more officers on the street. After reassigning two investigators back to patrol in 2018, a slight majority of the cases are assigned to investigations, but it was split evenly in 2020, according to police records.

The department is at its authorized strength of 63 officers, but that doesn’t mean all are on the road or investigating cases. It’s closer to 50, he said, saying that accommodates officers on some type of leave.

Adding two officers to patrol won’t sacrifice the needs of patrol officers, and will allow more cases to be assigned and closed. Right now, the detectives are “maxed out on what they can handle,” Maynard said.

The change would be a 1.3 percent hit on the city’s budget, according to Assistant City Manager Scott Timmer, who is also serving as the city’s finance director.

Timmer said the city’s police department had seen a steady increase in its budget from 2016 until 2020 when there was a restriction on time off.

Transitioning to 16 full-time dispatchers and adding two police officers will have a small impact if the city wouldn’t fill the open juvenile diversion counselor slot, and the reimbursement from Fairfield City Schools with its school resource officer (SRO) contract. In 2020, the schools paid the city just under $260,000, according to Timmer.


FACTS & FIGURES

Police Department calls for service:

2011: 27,530

2019: 35,554

Fire Department calls for service:

2011: 4,558

2019: 5,657

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