Struggle to hire 911 dispatchers leads to outsourcing in the St. Louis area

Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 11:04 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - When you call 911, you want someone to answer. But as more and more cities struggle to hire dispatchers, concerns grow over safety.

“We’re down to five full-time dispatchers when we budgeted for eight, we’ve been trying but we just can’t find suitable candidates,” explained Bridgeton Mayor Terry Briggs in March.

Briggs recently announced the city plans to outsource their dispatch to St. Louis County. The proposal will go before the city council this week and if approved, would take effect this coming summer. It could save the city more than $500,000 a year.

Wednesday, the Bridgeton City Council will have a special meeting to potentially outsource their dispatch line to St. Louis County. Currently, more than 40 municipalities outsource their dispatch to St. Louis County, which answered more than 800,000 calls in 2021. But even they are still hiring dispatchers. A search for dispatcher jobs on showed listings for St. Louis County, University City, Maryland Heights, Ballwin and the City of St. Louis.

The City of St. Louis has struggled to fill its dispatch positions for months and long wait times have plagued the city as they work to ensure emergency calls are answered. Their latest solution involves asking police officers to help answer the phone.

“The short-term solution is to train cadets to provide fill-in and also train officers who can fill in on overtime. We just want to reassure people, this is not taking officers off the street. This is officers who have volunteered to fill in on overtime so we can shore up our staffing as we try to,” explained Dan Isom, Public Safety Director for St. Louis City.

In Jefferson County, they recently lowered the age requirement for dispatchers from 21 to 18 in an effort to lure new hires.

The job can be tough emotionally and mentally and often requires long hours. Pay ranges between $35,000-$65,000 depending on the department.