The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's Communication Division has experienced some staffing challenges which impacts its ability to answer 911 calls within seconds. Call center staffing challenges/shortages are an industry-wide issue that was exacerbated by the covid pandemic. The National Emergency Number Association estimated in August 2022 that call centers nationwide averaged a 15 to 20 percent vacancy rate prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has increased to 30 percent since then. A review of Charlotte's peer cities indicates that nearly all are also facing similar challenges.
Staffing challenges were exacerbated in North Carolina when the State of North Carolina mandated that telecommunicators working for municipal police agencies be reported to the NC Sheriff's Standards for certification in 2021. This increased the minimum hiring requirements and created additional challenges by reducing the number of qualified candidates and extended the hiring process from four weeks to 10 weeks.
The City of Charlotte and CMPD are focused on the mission to provide a safe and secure environment for residents and over the last 18 months there have been aggressive efforts to optimize the call flow process and increase staffing to ensure calls are answered quickly and to minimize impacts to residents. CMPD has implemented several measures to attract new talent, improve service delivery and made improvements in the division including technology, new hiring practices, hiring bonuses, new departmental structure and more.
Key measures in place to increase staffing levels include:
- Increased the telecommunications hiring bonus from $2,000 to $4,000 and hosting hiring fairs and hiring campaigns for 911 telecommunicators
- Created an additional job classification for experienced telecommunicators to boost retention and recruitment
- Implemented priority shifts assignments to reduce wait time during peak hours
- Completed the process to reclassify supervisors to non-exempt employees which allows them to earn overtime pay to help fill scheduling gaps
- Authorized overtime throughout the year to increase the number of call takers at one time which would expedite the answering time
- Assigned light duty officers to aid in call-taking and implementing a temporary pool of employees to serve as call-takers only
- Created overlapping shifts during peak call hours
Additionally, citywide efforts over the past year designed to boost staffing include:
- An 8 percent salary increase in FY 2024 for all hourly employees.
- A 2.5 percent shift differential for afternoon and midnight shifts beginning in January 2023.
- A 1 percent retention bonus for employees in July and September.
CMPD has a standard practice of conducting interviews weekly and has interviewed more than 150 candidates year to date and CMPD hired and retained 32 telecommunicators year to date. Seven people finished the telecommunications academy last week and four people will be beginning training in the telecommunications academy later this month. New hires must complete a three-week telecommunications academy training program which is followed by seven to eight weeks of on-the-job training.
Please see below for call data and additional measures in place to improve service delivery and as well as improve staffing, morale, and overall workplace culture.
Call Center Performance Data
From November 2021 through October 2022, CMPD Communications has received 977,162 calls for service. Of those, CMPD call takers answered approximately:
- 60 percent of calls in 10 seconds or less
- 90 percent of calls in one minute or less
- 97 percent of calls in less than 2 minutes
- 99 percent of calls in less than 5 minutes
The industry standard goal is to answer 90 percent of calls in 10 seconds or less. The CMPD telecommunication center has historically met this goal but is currently experiencing challenges meeting that goal.
Staffing Shortages + Increased Call Volume
CMPD is currently short 20 telecommunicators of the 126 positions budgeted in FY23. At the same time CMPD has experienced an increase in the number of 911 calls by about 2 percent. A recent staffing study has indicated that once existing positions are filled, additional positions will likely need to be added. CMPD currently has the ability to continuously recruit for telecommunicators to fill as many positions as possible.
- In 2021, CMPD answered 966,916 calls for service while maintaining an average of 9.5 call takers on workstations at any given time.
- In 2022, CMPD has answered approximately 11,500 more calls for service with 2.3 less call takers at any given time when comparing the same timeframe to 2021.
Service Delivery Improvements
CMPD is consistently looking for opportunities to improve service delivery by following national best practices in 911 Communications Center management. Recent improvements include:
- Continued evaluation of individual wait time impacts.
- Reviewing call data to determine how each call should be triaged to reduce wait times.
- Automated options for callers to select Police, Fire or MEDIC to reduce call volume coming into CMPD.
Division Improvements and Employee Retention Initiatives
Within the past 18 months, the CMPD Communications Division has worked to improve staffing, morale and overall workplace culture by:
- Developing career path opportunities to bolster opportunities for internal promotions, increase telecommunicator retention, add relief for supervisors, and enhance mentorship and training
- Providing extensive supervisory training on employee relations and awareness
- Host employee roundtables to gain insights and ideas regarding employee wellness
- Implementing on-site visits from a certified life coach
- Debriefing with telecommunicators for stressful high-priority calls
- Enhancing peer-support initiatives with a focus on the Communications Division
- Balance rotations to improve personal leave time for employees
As CMPD continues to take care of its employees according to the department's vision statement, CMPD will maintain a focus on employee wellness and continually work with its other partners so that it optimizes the call flow process while developing solutions to staffing shortages. CMPD is committed to continually being a trusted, respected and sought-after community partner.
New Hiring Requirements
Prior to 2021, the basic qualification to be a telecommunicator in North Carolina was to have a high school diploma or equivalent, a standard background check and a negative drug screen, and successfully pass the required CritiCall test which requires strong multitasking, memorization, decision-making skills, and the testing of other abilities.
In 2021, the State of North Carolina mandated that telecommunicators working for municipal police agencies be reported to the NC Sheriff's Standards for certification. The minimum certification standards for all telecommunicators are set out in 12 NCAC 10B .0301 and are summarized as follows:
- U.S. citizen
- 18 years of age
- High school graduate or equivalent
- Fingerprinted by the employing agency
- Medical history and examination as required by 12 NCAC 10B .0304
- Psychological examination (appointment date 1/1/2022 and after)
- Negative drug screen
- Notify the Sheriffs' Standards Division within five (5) business days of any criminal charges, Domestic Violence Orders, and/or Civil No-Contact Orders
- Good moral character
- Background investigation including a personal interview pursuant to 12NCAC 10B .0305 and .0306 to include military discharge and expunction records.
- Not been convicted of or committed a crime or crimes as specified in 12NCAC 10B.0307.