Underpaid & Understaffed: Shawnee Co. Sheriff’s Office heads into 2016 with employment woes

TOPEKA (KSNT) — The Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office is faced with a huge challenge heading into 2016. And that is filling well over 20 dispatcher positions.

“What we have, we’re managing. Simple as that, we are managing. We are understaffed at the current time,” says Sheriff Herman Jones.

Underpaid, understaffed and overwhelmed, that is how the Shawnee County sheriff’s Office is feeling these days.

And it’s really being felt in the Emergency Communication Center, the dispatch headquarters.

Right now the county has fewer than 22 dispatchers managing emergency switch boards for the entire county.

“We are allotted to have about 45,” says Jones.

But the sheriff says that may never happen, if the county doesn’t shell out more money.

The county has done a pay study, showing that Shawnee County’s Emergency Communication Specialist are underpaid compared to neighboring counties.

SalaryGenius.om shows dispatchers in Shawnee County make $5 less in those positions than in Riley and Lyon County.

‘I’ve got a competitor that pays almost twice as much within the same area. That is what I am up against,” Jones says.

With not enough people to fill these positions, dispatchers are forced to do double shifts.

“By the time that week is over they are probably working 60 plus hours a week at a minimum,” says Lt. John Ostenson, Administrative Lieutenant with the Shawnee County Emergency Communication Center.

Fielding roughly 250,000 calls a year for about 8 different agencies this type of work can be grueling.

“My biggest concern is making sure that we have visible services, quality viable service for the public out there, and we can only go so long with that,” Jones says.

Dispatcher training can take seven to nine months.

That’s why the sheriff’s office is working with Washburn Tech to develop a class course to help train future dispatchers.

Shawnee County sets the salary for the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Jones hopes the county raises the pay scale for 2016.

If you would like to apply for the communication specialist position contact Lt. John Ostenson at (785) 251-2297

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