Oakland Police down 22 employees, in desperate need of dispatchers

Up to 70 hours a month of mandatory overtime, that's what some East Bay city employees are facing as Oakland is in desperate need for police communications operators and dispatchers.

"My number one charge is reduction of crime and to make our city safe," says Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. 

One of the first tools in chief's arsenal against crime is the people working at the police emergency communications center. 

"I'm the first point of contact. When there is something wrong people call 911. I am a first responder just like my officers are," says Oakland Police Dispatcher Sharon Gray. 

Like the job of an officer the operators and dispatchers are dealing with a lot of stress and calls for service.  

"Someone just had a loved one to die, someone's care was just stolen, someone was just shot," says Oakland Police Communications Manager Eugenia Oliver.  

"You hear people at their absolute worst," says Gray. But the stress doesn't stop there.  The workers at the call center are overwhelmed. 

A 40-hour work week is basically unheard of because the department is understaffed. "We have been in a mandatory overtime status for well over a year," says Oliver. 

"Sometimes it’s upwards of 40 or 60 hours of mandatory overtime in a month and it does become very challenging with the stresses of the job," says Gray.  "They're working even longer hours that even heightens that stress. So we need to relieve them and I need to take care of them," says Kirkpatrick. 

The chief says the department is supposed to have 87 employees.  But due to attrition and injuries the department is down 22 workers and the departments in critical need more communication center workers.

"The job doesn't stop the requirements of the job doesn't stop. We still have an obligation to the citizens of Oakland," says Oliver.   

"We have to be properly staffed, to be able to meet all those demands and needs in order to create a thriving healthy and safe city," says Kirkpatrick.