PORTSMOUTH — While multiple members of Portsmouth City Council voiced displeasure with dispatchers from Portsmouth Police Department, Council voted 3-2 to move an ordinance that would approve a collective bargaining agreement, which would raise their pay, to second reading during its Monday, Oct. 26, session.
If passed, the ordinance would ratify the recently negotiated collective bargaining agreement between the city and Fraternal Order of Police/Ohio Labor Council Dispatchers Unit for the period beginning Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2022.
Guiding his vote against the ordinance, Mayor Kevin Johnson said the adage of “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work,” needed to be applied in this instance.
“What this is a raise in pay,” said Johnson, joined by 4th Ward Councilman Andrew McManus as the dissenters in his last meeting on Council. “I can’t see having a raise in pay for a job that hasn’t been a well-done job.”
Instead, Johnson said this pay raise should be revisited next year and asked citizens to contact Council or Portsmouth Chief of Police Debra Brewer if they were treated rudely by a dispatcher.
“I have had a lot of complaints of the quality of service that dispatch provides,” said 2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon. “It is a problem that needs to be addressed and I know that to just rubber-stamp this doesn’t really let them know that we are really dissatisfied with what they’re doing.”
Just taking the position in late June, Council wants to give Brewer time to correct these mistakes and believes she will do what is necessary to do so.
“Even though I am extremely dissatisfied with the dispatch, I do think an opportunity should be given to Chief Brewer to make the positive changes that are needed,” said 5th Ward Councilman Edwin Martell. “I think we need to give her a chance to do so because it is something that everyone has experienced, as far as displeasure.”
Aware of these concerns, Brewer said the department is working with dispatch, which is staffed by eight, full-time employees with one just hired last month still in training.
The department is looking into additional training for dispatch to prevent these calls from continuing. Training, however, has been hard to come by for at least the newest employee as classes have been canceled due to the coronavirus.
“We have received complaints about rudeness,” said Brewer, who reviews these recorded calls when complaints are heard. “Sometimes I just think they are really busy and it may be taken as being rude, but if they feel that they are being rude that is something we need to know.”
She encourages Council to come sit-in as the dispatchers do their “hectic” job, which consists of operating the phone lines and informing police, fire, and EMS of scenes they need to report to.
“I wish that Council, before they make this decision, would come and take the opportunity to just sit in there with them on a shift and listen and observe what they actually go through,” Brewer said. “If there’s one dispatcher in there, they are doing everything that normally what two would be doing.”
Council will bring the FOP contract to a second reading Monday, Nov. 9. If the ordinance makes it to the third reading, it will require four votes in favor to pass.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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