Newburgh police dispatchers say they're still understaffed, despite city's approval to for more personnel

The dispatchers are warning that even with extra staff, the city's plan might not solve their missed-calls problem.

News 12 Staff

May 25, 2023, 10:37 PM

Updated 365 days ago

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Newburgh police dispatchers say they are stretched so thin, some emergency calls are going unanswered.
The City Council just approved more staff to keep up, while also try to avoid overtime costs that have saddled the city financially.
The dispatchers warn that even with extra staff, the city's plan might not solve their missed-calls problem.
Newburgh city officials are at odds with the CSEA, who represents the Newburgh police dispatchers, even though the council just voted to add four new dispatcher positions to keep from missing police calls.
Dispatcher and Union Treasurer Stephanie Roper is annoyed city administrators are still keeping just two dispatchers on each shift to save money, despite having more staff.
At the last City Council meeting, Roper said they have to go with three per shift and cough up some overtime to truly be able to get every call.
"We've running two per shift for 20 straight months now. I'm exhausted. Everybody's tired, and we are working the overtime. We're a lifeline. Phones are going unanswered," Roper said at the council meeting.
Some on the City Council say if they brought all departments' staffing levels to where department heads want them, it would cost taxpayers more than they are paying now.
"There's a direct correlation between staff and taxes," says Council Member Anthony Grice. He adds that the administration's dispatch staffing decision is one example of the many compromises the city had to make to keep from going broke.
Grice says not to forget that the city is still rebounding from 2019, when Newburgh was close to insolvency because of prior financial mismanagement.
"If they want to keep their taxes low, which I understand, I'm a homeowner here in the City of Newburgh, they have to say, 'OK, what are we going to spend on staffing?' And so that's always that fine balance," Grice says.
Dispatchers say the council and administration also need to account for the risk of burnout among dispatch staff.
Roper told the council, their office recently lost a 23-year-veteran of the office to job with less stress and better pay, and they just lost their only Spanish-speaking dispatcher.
News 12 reached out to the DEC for comment and is waiting to hear back.
News 12 also reached out to City of Newburgh Chief-of-Staff Michael Neppl to respond to the dispatchers' concerns about missed calls, stress and burnout under the staffing plan.
He said in part, "By hiring four new dispatchers, the City will eliminate hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime costs. This is a clear win for public safety, and City taxpayers will not be fooled by a few self-interested parties trying to protect their exorbitant overtime payments."


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