CALEXICO — The Calexico City Council heard renewed complaints of severe understaffing issues from city dispatchers during the public comments portion at its regular meeting Wednesday, July 21.
This is the second time in recent weeks that city dispatchers have appeared before the Council to voice concerns regarding the lack of staffing at the communication center and the toll it is taking on the department.
Dispatcher at Calexico Police Department Griselda Gonzalez said that the City has not opened job postings for the much-needed staffing issues at the department despite the Council previously promising to do so at the start of the new fiscal year, which was earlier this month.
“Dispatchers were promised positions that would be filled starting in the new fiscal year. The new fiscal year started this July and so far, other city positions have opened with applicants interviewed and positions filled but no openings have been authorized for dispatchers,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez said the dispatchers keep getting the same lack of answers from public officials like the city manager, the finance director, and the police chief and said they all absolve the blame off themselves by pointing the finger at someone else.
“I’m here to ask the City Council whose responsibility it is to make sure city positions are authorized and open for qualified applicants,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez reminded the Council that the communication center is short staffed with three positions needed to be filled. Due to the staffing issues, the communication center has had an officer assigned to help them but will soon go out on maternity leave. They are also about to lose one full-time dispatcher who is going on maternity leave as well.
“One entire shift will have no dispatcher. Our communication center has not yet received direction or implemented a plan for coverage. We keep getting no response, which is stressing us out, knowing we will be harassed and stopped by the department on our days off,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez reminded the Council that several different agencies constantly search out the dispatchers on their days off by contacting their families and appearing outside their homes to force them to go into work as a direct result of the department being understaffed.
“This issue can easily be resolved by hiring personnel and having a plan of action and be ready for these upcoming shortages, but there isn’t,” said Gonzalez.
Head of the Calexico Police Officers Association Luis Casillas also spoke about the issue and said there is a lot of pointing fingers and nothing really getting done.
“There’s nothing effective or efficient about this City today,” said Casillas.
Casillas reminded the Council that Calexico has a population of over 40,000 and is being patrolled by one or two police officers.
“Not only is that dangerous for the people that live here, but it’s dangerous for the officers that go out there and patrol those streets. It’s stressful for the dispatchers,” said Casillas.
Casillas asked the Council to work together and bring some resolution to the issues at hand.
“If you really want to improve the quality of life for the people of this community as we sit here and do this mission statement at the beginning of each meeting, then we really need to start working together as a team,” said Casillas.