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Where I Stand: What if you call 911 and no one answers?

Editor’s note: Plumas News has lost track of the number of times members of the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office have appeared before the Board of Supervisors, warning of critical staffing levels and asking, in some cases begging, for help. Such was the case again this week when Dispatch Supervisor Becky Grant appeared before the board. Following is the text of her remarks, because no one can say it better than she can with her long history in the position. Grant’s remarks also shed some light on some of the issues that the department faces when interacting with other county entities. This is an opinion piece that every resident of Plumas County should read. 


By Becky Grant

Dispatch Supervisor Plumas County Sheriff’s Department

My name is Becky Grant; I am the Dispatch Supervisor for the Sheriff’s Department.  I came before you several months back to give you some information on what is happening at the department, specifically the 911 dispatch center. Also, to ask for your support and action to slow this sinking ship from going down. To date we have seen virtually nothing being done to help us.

Five months ago I sat here and told you how shorthanded we are and explained how we were losing more dispatchers come February to April.  Well, it is now a reality.  To reiterate, the Sheriff has eight dispatcher positions allocated and one supervisor.  In one week, we will be at three full-time dispatchers and me, for a 24/7 job.  Of the three remaining dispatchers, two of them have literally interviewed or applied for other positions in the past month or so.  When I was last here, I invited each on of you to come by and see what happens in the County 911 Dispatch Center.  To date, no one has taken me up on this offer.  For us, that, unfortunately, speaks volumes.

Man, I would love to retire in 2023.  As I told you, I don’t want to leave things dysfunctional, but with what appears to be no outside support, should I even worry?   What are we doing here people? What is your priority? I’m sorry, but public safety and 911 do not appear to be high on your list.

Wages are a huge issue and I understand our Association is finally working with the county in this regard.   Hopefully there will be a meaningful outcome.

What I am here to express to you today is our frustration with the recruiting and hiring process.  HR will tell you they have sent over many applicants and we are not hiring people. I agree, we are seeing applicants trickle through, very slowly, but we struggle to get qualified candidates that can pass all the way through the hiring process, background check and the four-plus month training period.  And, honestly, this process is just taking too long to happen. Good candidates are finding work elsewhere before we can even start…

We just had a new dispatcher in training who quit after eight weeks; he tried so very hard but could not handle the stresses of being a 911 dispatcher.  We had another dispatcher that had almost eight months in training, and could not do the job, she has also moved on.

About a month ago, I spoke to a young lady that told me she turned in a dispatcher application in early December.  In January, when she called HR for a status of her application, she was told the hiring and testing were on hold because they (HR) were in the process of moving offices. She was told after they moved the hiring process would resume.   This test took place the week of March 20th.  She has since moved on to another job.  We are beyond critical staffing and it takes four months to process a candidate through to the just the testing process?

We have a second person who put in an application in December, her application was lost or misplaced – as of yesterday she decided to also move on to another agency.

Do you really think that people that want to work can wait months on end to just start the hiring process?  Again, what is the priority here?

The Sheriff has said he has looked into closing the dispatch center.  I don’t know if that can or would ever happen, but just hearing the words being spoken terrifies me, and it should terrify you all.  I’m telling you, closing the dispatch center cannot happen. Who will answer those 911 calls? Who will page the ambulance to your loved one’s heart attack call? Or the fire department when your house is on fire?  Who?

This is no joke; this is a reality that the county is facing.  So yes, as others have said we need to be competitive with what we pay to recruit new employees, and we must treat employees better if we want to retain them, but as it sits today, this very broken process is keeping many people from even having a shot at this job.  In my view, wages are the biggest issue, then the hiring process, then how the Sheriff’s Office handles their employees.  All must be addressed.

This board must push HR and the Sheriff to get on the same page to streamline this process. The Sheriff has come forward with some ideas that may help.  But this may mean changing the hiring process.  What do you have to lose?  What they are doing is not working.

Someone needs to step in and take control.  I am begging you all to intervene and help us out. We are literally falling apart, and it seems there is no, or little, hope on the horizon.  We must keep our eye on what counts, the citizens we all serve, as they will be the ones who call 911, and there may not be anyone there to answer that call…

Thank you.

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