Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Alderman, union fight Emanuel plan to reduce police and fire dispatchers 

Chicago firefighter-turned-alderman Nick Sposato (36th) and the union representing fire dispatchers maneuvered Monday to kill Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to reduce the ranks of police and fire dispatchers at the city’s 911 emergency center.
Fire and EMS dispatcher Jeff Johnson , union steward for IBEW Local 9, said the mayor’s plan to eliminate the jobs of 17 fire dispatchers, lay off nine others and shrink the supervisory ranks from 13 to 8 could send response times and employee burn-out rates through the roof.
The jobs of 45 police dispatchers would also be eliminated. So would four of 22 radio repair technicians at a time when radio and data frequencies need to be reprogrammed to comply with a Federal Communications Commission mandate.
“We strive to answer every call in under two rings. With these cuts, it’ll go from two seconds to 15 seconds. That’s a very dangerous number,” Johnson said Monday.
“If we have call takers working 16 hours a day, people are gonna get burned out. They’re gonna start making mistakes. It’s gonna put public safety in danger. They’ll end up paying more in overtime and in lawsuits” than they would have in salaries.
Sposato said he doesn’t buy the mayor’s office’s argument that paying overtime to a leaner staff of dispatchers would be “less expensive than having a full-time staff person” who is not needed year-round.
Not when dispatchers are already stretched so thin, some of them are doubling their annual salaries in overtime.
“You’re playing with fire there. You know what happens when you play with fire? You get burned,” Sposato said. “People are furious all the time about being put on hold. We have a lot of problems with 911 services, through no fault of dispatchers. I don’t want to cut dispatchers. I don’t think that’s the place to cut. It would lead to an increase in response times.”
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) argued that 911 dispatchers “get burned out just like air traffic controllers. And if they make one mistake, it can be deadly.” Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) called the 911 center “one of the many places not to cut.”
Ald. John Arena (45th) noted that front-line workers have been “cut back to skeleton levels” in tree trimming, street and alley light repairs and he would hate to see similar cuts impact the 911 center.
“A full-time employee with benefits and pension can cost more [than] paying overtime to one employee, but what’s the burn-out rate? That’s an intense job. We have to look at that. I want to know how are we gonna deliver services in a critical area like that when they’re making this many cuts,” Arena said.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday that Emanuel’s plan to lay off more than 500 city employees and eliminate 776 vacancies could impact the 911 center in a way that could slow response times or stretch call takers to the limit.
In an e-mail response to the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel’s communications director Chris Mather argued that it was “completely speculative and incorrect” for the union to suggest that layoffs would trigger an increase in response times to 911 calls.
The operations floor has already been operating with vacant positions unfilled and “continues to maintain the highest level of efficiency,” she said.
“Residents can still expect a fast response followed by a quick dispatch of resources,” Mather said, noting that the city has “budgeted for any possible increase in overtime.”
In 2009, more than 60 operators at the 911 center each earned more than $20,000 in overtime pay. One racked up $90,552 in overtime, more than his $77,784 annual salary. 


  1. Maybe we do have some political clout after all. This story stands a better chance of getting out to the public with Aldermen now talking about it. It might be a good idea to call your aldermen and let them know what you think about this move. I don't see a full reversal on the city's part but maybe we can save some of these jobs. Good Luck.

  2. Listen up folks... being fired? No one was EVER in danger of being fire.

    Having a scumbag like Emanuel pull this BS in order to garner some form of "push" from the public in order to force you to take pay cuts?

    THAT'S the truth behind this punk move of Emanuel.

    At no time was he EVER going to have the balls to fire or lay off any of you. It was ALWAYS a ploy to pit YOU against the taxpayers to force you to take pay cuts or to try and play his game to the future arbiter of your contract to play him like a cheap harp and make HIM steal back your pay for Emanuel's graft wagon.

  3. OEMC needs fixing, but the problem isn't at the bottom with the call takers, it's with management.

    Too many clout heavy 4th floor people who do nothing.

    Too many Trotter hires that are horrible dispatchers and call takers.

    Too many supervisors who play favorites and let the dogs be dogs, and snap the whip at people who do work.

    Too many watch managers who just don't care.

    Run the stats, reward the hard workers and dump the dog asses. But the answer is fire the people who make the least amount of money and do the most amount of work.

  4. Chicago Sun Times;
    25 October 2011
    Letters to the Editor;

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to cut more jobs from both the police and fire dispatch staffs at the 911 center is dangerous to the well-being of the employees.

    In 2009, I retired after 12 years as a police call-taker at the 911 center. The forced overtime was just too much strain, and it is a rule violation to refuse to work overtime.

    When people get promoted, no one fills the old jobs, so the promoted person has to do two jobs. Every time a list of the city’s top overtime workers comes out, 911 workers top the list. The 911 center is so short-staffed that overtime is needed to keep it running.

    Call-taking and dispatching are stressful. An error can get someone on the street killed or injured. The 911 workers already are stretched to the limit.

    Timothy O’Mahony,

    Jefferson Park

  5. Chicago Sun Times;
    26 October 2011;

    Fire Dispatch and Police Dispatch are vital parts of emergency services that are often overlooked.

    At any moment, an incident such as 9/11 could take place, and I fear we will not be prepared to service the city as we should due to proposed budget cuts.

    Manpower is key to proper preparedness. It has been stated that overtime is a better solution than more full-time employees to handle everyday emergencies during “peak” hours and seasons.

    That, however, does not reflect the several hours that would be required to replace manpower or the burnout for employees required to work 16-hour shifts.

    The citizens of Chicago should be confident that when they call 911 (peak hours or not), they will receive the highest efficiency, priority and quality that the Office of Emergency Management and Communications can provide.

    Coleen O’Connor,

    fire calltaker at OEMC,

    Union Steward Local 9