MINOCQUA – The Minocqua Police Department will soon have to replace three positions in its 24/7-dispatch center. Its police chief says now is the time to make some staffing changes.
Current staffing levels call for four full-timers and four part-timers. While all full-time positions are filled, they have only two part-timers on board, with a third person being trained for part-time work. “Something has to change,” Police Chief David Jaeger told the town board recently. Despite the current staff stepping forward to cover for others on vacation or with family obligations, the situation can’t continue, he said. “People need their time off, away from the job."
Jaeger will be forwarding different proposals for the town board to consider in restructuring the center. One of the proposals mentioned is to add another full-time position, while eliminating all but one of the part-timers. “We’re not the only agency that’s going through this,” he said about finding qualified personnel to fill these positions. He’s had retired State Troopers and retired police officers throw in the towel and admit they can’t handle the training cycle for dispatchers. “It takes a unique person and takes a special skill,” he explained to supervisors about a dispatcher’s success on the job. “You have to deal with multitasking. You need to be able to remain calm in a point of chaos. And .... you’re listening to officers on the radio that you can tell are becoming stressed or are getting involved in a situation that’s getting out of hand, and wonder if they are okay. And some people just aren’t wired that way to be able to do that.”
Also, he says the recent unrest on the nation’s streets and the criticism of police tactics in general are souring people from entering the law enforcement field, he said. He believes he can cover the cost of an additional full-time position through eliminating the part-time posts and reducing overtime pay.
Supervisor John Thompson wondered if the town couldn’t turn over the night dispatching duties to the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department. The police chief said the sheriff there isn’t keen on taking on more dispatching work as he also has trouble finding qualified personnel for those slots; nor do the dispatchers sitting in Rhinelander have the detailed knowledge of the town’s many roads and streets that the local dispatchers have.
No board action was taken pending the police chief’s return with a detailed analysis of the cost of adding a fourth full-time tele-communicator and other options.