Dallas police make officers 911 operators due to staff shortage

Dallas Police Headquarters
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As WFAA first reported, there are only about 60 911 operators for the entire city of Dallas.

They need about 125 to properly staff the call center.

So the Dallas Police Department is putting dozens of officers in 911 operator jobs with just three days of training in their new positions.

The department and city have been under fire after WFAA first reported major technical issues with 911 involving T-Mobile. People were being placed on hold for more than 30 minutes.

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But part of the problem was also a lack of 911 operators. Right now, the department is mandating operators work extra hours and sometimes double shifts.

Operators told WFAA they're exhausted.

So to fill the void, the department is moving about 40 officers who are on light duty or restricted duty.

They will get three days of training and spend a few days with a 911 operator until they feel comfortable enough to answer calls.

Typically it takes four months to train an operator  but an officer’s peace license can take the place of a telecommunications certificate because they know the codes and the language. All they need is to learn how to work the phone system.

The department did this back in 2012 after Deanna Cook was murdered while on a call with 911 in part because there weren't enough call takers.

There were promises made then that the center would never be understaffed but the officers who were down there were moved out to fill other needs in a department that is also suffering an officer shortage.

Both officers and 911 operators are some of the lowest paid in North Texas so it's difficult to hire people.

The city management and the council have been slow and hesitant to pay more.

The city says it's upgrading the 911 system and plans on hiring more operators.