Marion County 911 team encouraged by more dispatchers, shorter wait times

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Seconds matter when someone calls 911. Dispatchers in Marion County certainly know this and have been working toward shorter wait times for callers.

The sheriff’s office has struggled with low staffing levels since 2011, but they tell CBS4 they have made notable progress in 2019.

Tyler Swardson is focused on connecting help in the midst of havoc. He is one of the new dispatchers-in-training now. Maj. Joseph McAtee said there are 24 new trainees for the position.

"They'll be talking on the phone, 'Hey I've got this crash here'" making noise, doing all kinds of stuff," Swardson explained about the way the trainers help them.

McAtee referred to dispatchers as "the most important part of public safety in Marion County."

"Without them, police don't get dispatched, fire doesn't get dispatched and ambulance don't get dispatched," McAtee said. "So, these people are extremely important."

For years, law enforcement officers have voiced the need for more dispatchers, more money and less turnover. Thanks to a three-year salary increase, dispatcher recruitment and retention is up.

"We're pretty close to our authorized strength here," McAtee said. "I mean I would always like to have more than that, but today, we're pretty close to authorized strength."

This time last year, CBS4 reported the longest wait time was 31 seconds. The national average is 10 seconds, McAtee said.

"The last two months, we've been at 13 seconds which is still too long," McAtee responded. "But for us that's exceptionally good. That's better than we've had it in the past couple of years. "

For those who have been doing this for a long time, they’re proud of how far the department has come.

"I hope that we continue to stay at this level," Ben Beasley, Assistant to the Director of Training said. "I hope that everybody's spirits continue to stay up."

McAtee said our local dispatchers answer around one million calls each year. He adds retention is important because it often takes more than four months to train each of them.

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