911 call response time information and update ^ North Carolina

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Communications Department has experienced some staffing challenges that impact their ability to respond to emergency calls within seconds. Call center staffing challenges/shortages are an industry-wide problem that has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. The National Emergency Number Association estimated in August 2022 that call centers nationwide had an average vacancy rate of 15 to 20 percent prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has since risen to 30 percent. An overview of the comparison cities in Charlotte shows that almost all face similar challenges.

Staffing challenges were exacerbated in North Carolina when the state of North Carolina required telecom workers working for city police departments to report to NC Sheriff’s Standards for certification in 2021. This increased the minimum hiring requirements and introduced additional challenges by reducing the number of qualified candidates and lengthening the hiring process from four weeks to 10 weeks.

The City of Charlotte and CMPD are focused on the mission of providing residents with a safe and secure environment, and intensive efforts have been made over the past 18 months to streamline call flow and increase staffing levels to ensure calls are answered quickly and the impact will be minimized to residents. CMPD has implemented several measures to attract new talent, improve service delivery and make departmental improvements including technology, new hiring practices, hiring bonuses, new department structure and more.

Key measures to increase headcount include::

  • Increased the telecom hiring bonus from $2,000 to $4,000 and hosted hiring fairs and campaigns for 911 telecom workers
  • Creation of an additional job classification for experienced telecom professionals to promote retention and recruitment
  • Implementation of priority shifts to reduce the waiting time during peak times
  • Completed the process of reclassifying supervisors as non-exempt workers, allowing them to earn overtime pay to fill scheduling gaps
  • Approved overtime throughout the year to increase the number of calls answered at the same time, which would reduce response time
  • Assigned light duty officers to help answer calls and set up a temporary pool of staff to answer calls only
  • Creates overlapping shifts during peak hours

In addition, citywide efforts over the past year to increase staffing levels include:

  • An 8 percent pay rise in FY2024 for all hourly workers.
  • A shift differential of 2.5 percent for afternoon and midnight shifts from January 2023.
  • A 1 percent retention bonus for employees in July and September.

CMPD conducts weekly interviews as standard and has interviewed more than 150 candidates year to date, and CMPD hired and retained 32 telecom professionals year to date. Seven people graduated from the Telecom Academy last week and four people will begin their Telecom Academy training later this month. New hires must complete a three-week Telecom Academy training program followed by seven to eight weeks of on-the-job training.

Below is call data and additional actions taken to improve service delivery, as well as to improve staffing, morale and overall workplace culture.

Call Center Performance Data

From November 2021 to October 2022, CMPD Communications received 977,162 service requests. Of these, CMPD callers responded approximately:

  • 60 percent of calls in 10 seconds or less
  • 90 percent of calls in a 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 Telecom Center has achieved this goal in the past, but is currently facing challenges in achieving this goal.

Staff shortages + increased call volume

The CMPD is currently short of 20 telecom workers out of the 126 positions budgeted for FY23. At the same time, CMPD saw an approximately 2 percent increase in the number of 911 calls. A recent human resources study has shown that once existing positions have been filled, more positions will likely need to be created. CMPD is currently able to continuously recruit telecom professionals to fill as many positions as possible.

  • In 2021, CMPD answered 966,916 service calls while employing an average of 9.5 call attendants at the workplaces.
  • In 2022, CMPD answered approximately 11,500 more service calls with 2.3 fewer callers at any one time comparing the same period to 2021.

Service Delivery Improvements

CMPD is constantly looking for ways to improve service delivery by following national best practices in managing 911 communication centers. Recent improvements include:

  • Continuous assessment of the impact of each waiting time.
  • Review call data to determine how each call should be sorted to reduce wait times.
  • Automated options for callers to select police, fire department or MEDIC to reduce the volume of calls coming into CMPD.

Department improvements and employee retention initiatives

Over the past 18 months, the CMPD communications department has worked to improve staffing, morale and overall workplace culture by:

  • Development of career opportunities to increase opportunities for internal promotions, increase retention of telecom professionals, relieve supervisors and improve mentoring and training
  • Provide comprehensive supervision training on employee relations and awareness
  • Host employee roundtables to gather insights and ideas on employee wellbeing
  • Conducting on-site visits by a certified life coach
  • Debriefing with telecom operators for stressful high priority calls
  • Improving peer support initiatives with a focus on the communications department
  • Balanced rotations to improve employee personal vacation time

As CMPD continues to care for its employees according to the department’s vision, CMPD will remain focused on employee well-being and continuously work with its other partners to optimize the call flow process while developing solutions to staffing bottlenecks. CMPD strives to continually be a trusted, respected, and sought-after partner in the community.

New recruitment requirements

Prior to 2021, the basic qualifications to be a telecommunications professional in North Carolina were having a high school diploma or equivalent, having a standard background check and negative drug test, and successfully passing the required CritiCall test, which requires heavy multitasking, memorization, and decision making . Crafting skills and testing other skills.

In 2021, the state of North Carolina mandated that telecom workers working for municipal law enforcement agencies be reported to NC Sheriff’s Standards for certification. The minimum certification standards for all telecommunications providers are set out in 12 NCAC 10B .0301 and are summarized as follows:

  • U.S. citizens
  • 18 years old
  • Abitur or technical college entrance qualification
  • Fingerprint from the employment agency
  • Medical history and examination per 12 NCAC 10B .0304
  • Psychological examination (appointment from January 1st, 2022)
  • Negative drug screen
  • Notify the Sheriffs’ Standards Division within five (5) business days of any criminal charges, domestic violence orders, and/or civil restraining orders
  • Good moral character
  • Background investigation, including an in-person interview under 12NCAC 10B .0305 and .0306, to include military discharge and displacement records.
  • Have not been convicted of or committed a felony or felonies under 12NCAC 10B.0307.