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Durham Police Association calls for more staff in the 911 call centre

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

DURHAM: The Durham Regional Police Association is raising a concern regarding staffing levels at the 911 call centre.

Recently, the Durham Regional Police (DRPS) Services Board received a letter from the association’s president Colin Goodwin stating the association is concerned about staffing shortages at the call centre.

“You may or may not be aware, but our Communicators deal with over six hundred 911 emergency calls each and every day. This is usually done by six to eight call-takers and in some instances less than five because of staffing shortages due to injuries or illness. Chairs, my members are getting burnt out. They are working long hours, at their call desks, without being able to take short breaks to use the washroom or to re-centre themselves after a bad call. The stressors of the 911 centre have caused over 10 [percent] of staff to go off work, from post-traumatic stress or operational stress injuries. As the Region has grown our emergency services have not grown with it. Our call centre is experiencing an annual 15-18 [percent] increase in calls and has not received any meaningful increase in staffing in over a decade,” the letter read.

Mr. Goodwin’s letter added, the police association is “always willing to work with the Region and the Service to address these issues.”

A joint statement by Durham Regional Chair John Henry and the Police Services board was recently released, regarding this issue. “Working in the 911 call centre is an extremely difficult and demanding job. These employees are a critical resource, to ensure the safety of citizens, and police officers who are responding to emergency calls. We are proud of these members and the superior quality of their work,” the statement read. “Currently, the North American standard, for public safety answering point, is 90 [percent] of 911 calls to be answered within 15 seconds. The DRPS provides services [which exceed] this standard. In 2020, the DRPS average was 94 [percent] of all calls answered in two rings (approximately 8 seconds), which is above the standard in both time and consistency.”

Chair Henry and the police services board also believe “adequate resources are in place to protect the public and employees.”

“The need for further investments will be examined, as part [of] the budget process [which] regularly occurs, and should additional resources be required, these will be assigned. We are committed to continuing to ensure all emergency calls are responded to promptly and effectively, and that adequate staffing levels exist to provide excellent policing services to everyone in Durham Region,” the statement concluded.

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