PPD gets new officers and scheduling model
Staffing changes at the Petersburg Police Department (PPD) have led to a new scheduling model that will have police officers filling in on dispatch shifts as part of their weekly duties.
Police Chief Kelly Swihart said that the idea for the new schedule came after receiving notice that two dispatchers would be leaving the department, including head dispatcher Doc Lopez who’s retiring after 21 years with the department. Instead of replacing those positions with dispatchers, Swihart said they’ll be recruiting sworn officers who will serve in both capacities in order to reduce inefficiencies in staff scheduling.
“Dispatchers run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To get that level of coverage, you need to have a minimum of five employees but when you give everybody 40 hours a week with two consecutive days off, you end up with multiple people scheduled that you may not,” Swihart explained. Having officers fill the scheduling gaps will ensure adequate staffing and will allow officers to work on special projects, community outreach or other law enforcement work when there’s double coverage.
The change will cost will come with about a $25,000 price tag in increased personnel costs, but Swihart said he predicts that it may reduce overstaff staffing costs by reducing overtime.
“It’s gonna look more expensive on the front end, but on the back end, I think it’s going to save us money,” he said.
Swihart said the current group of dispatchers remain indispensable to the department. In addition to fielding inquires and complaints from the public, they also help with corrections, filling out state and federal crime reports and managing the tasks associated with the DMV.
“I want that core group of dispatchers that we have to continue in that, filling those roles,” Swihart said. “It would just be hard to replace that level of expertise.”
Swihart said under the new model four officers will fill a total of 40 hours a week at the dispatch desk. That accounts for about 20 percent, or about one day, of an officer’s total work time.
The department recently welcomed Corey Rowley as a new officer. Rowley worked as a temporary officer in the department for two months earlier in the year when the PPD was short staffed. They’re also awaiting the Aug. 16 arrival of John Dodson who recently accepted an offer of employment as well. Both Dodson and Rowley have worked previously in Alaska.
That leaves one unfilled position on the roster. Swihart said there are two viable candidates for that spot, and he hopes to finish the hiring process in the coming weeks.