Union members who represent Albany's 911 dispatchers are sounding the alarm for help with unprecedented staff shortages.

When we dial 911, we want and expect a competent person to answer the phone and dispatch help to us when we need it.

Bill LeBeau, the Staff Director for Albany dispatchers’ Union Council 82, says that he is begging for help.  He says that 911 employees are struggling with long hours and extreme staff shortages.

We all know that 2020 was demanding on everyone, including Albany’s police and fire departments.  When we call for help, we usually think we are calling the police department or the fire department, but we are actually calling mostly civilian employees in the 911 center to dispatch emergency equipment to us.  Statistics show that in 2020, there were 118 shifts that were short of at least one dispatcher.

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The 911 center currently has 28 employees, when they are fully staffed, they have 43 employees.

LeBeau sent a letter to the local government pleading for help with the staff shortage.  He says that the shortage is caused by two things. The first is the requirement that 911 employees live in Albany, the second is the pay.  If employees are required to live in Albany, and the Albany City Government is not paying wages comparable to surrounding areas, staff shortages are almost certain.

Mayor Sheehan disputes the union's allegations.  She says that the residential requirement has not prohibited any potential employees from working for 911.  She says that employees have either moved into the city or were already living in the city and met the requirement.  She did not address the issue of pay for dispatchers.

The issue of staff shortages for Albany dispatchers is very serious.  We need the people who answer our calls for help to be readily available when we need them.

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