‘Kick that to voicemail’: KCSO 911 Call Center severely understaffed, struggling to keep up

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — The 911 Call Center run by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office is in critical need of more dispatchers.

They’re operating in a severe staffing shortage, even as calls for help keep coming.

“These dispatchers are working 5, 6, 7 days a week — 12 hour shifts to make sure we have the staffing adequate,” said Ryan Higgins, a lieutenant with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.

There should be 25 dispatchers on staff. Right now, they only have 10. They’re covering the slack as much they can, but the workload isn’t sustainable.

“As burnout happens, as these dispatchers are working 60, 70 hours a week — mistakes can happen,” Higgins said.

He says longtime dispatchers have left the department which is contributing to the issue. Additionally, the job has its fair share of stress and for some, it’s too much to handle.

They’re prioritizing life and death emergencies with the limited resources they have. This means if you need to report a property crime or get ahold of animal control, don’t expect an immediate answer.

“We’re going to kick that to a voicemail box, and we’ll get to it when we have the ability to do so,” he added.

Negotiations are underway to boost pay for the people working at the center, but even then, these staffing shortages won’t be fixed overnight.

“The problem is, it takes so long to train them,” Higgins said. “It takes six to seven months to train somebody with all the disciplines that we do.”

The Sheriff’s Office is processing new applications right now but because of the severe shortage, they aren’t where they’d like to be when it comes to public safety.

“We’re kind of stuck, and we’re just trying to fight through the best we can,” he concluded.

If you or someone you know would like to apply for a dispatch position, click HERE or call 208.446.1300.