Sheriff's Office trying to hire dispatchers

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Osage County Sheriff's Office has been having trouble staffing its dispatch center, and it's not clear why.

"It's about the same thing everywhere," Sheriff Eddie Virden said Oct. 7, reflecting on the difficulty that employers throughout the U.S. economy are reporting as they seek to attract new workers. "We're at a critical level."

Tiffany Bradley, communications supervisor for the Sheriff's Office, said the dispatch center is intended to have 14 staff members. Instead, there were just 10, and one of those was temporarily away on maternity leave, she said.

"It doesn't allow for extra time off. It really makes it hard if someone gets sick or has a little one that gets sick," Bradley said. The Sheriff's Office has already tried spreading the word, but the flow of applications has been slow, she said.

To work as a dispatcher, you need good communication skills, and you need to be able to work well with people who are experiencing high stress. Anyone who is interested can email tbradley@ocso.net or call the Sheriff's Office, or apply online at ocso.net.

The work can be personally rewarding in that it allows you to help people who very much need assistance. Compensation is $2,400 a month to start, plus benefits.

"It's not bad pay for the area, and all you have to have is a high school diploma," Bradley said.

For a while, the Sheriff's Office blamed the shortage of applicants on the COVID-19 pandemic and enhanced federal jobless benefits, Bradley explained. Those benefits are no longer available in Oklahoma, so it's not clear why no one is applying, she said.

Bradley said that putting up information on Facebook about job openings used to be enough to generate 7-8 applications, but not anymore.

Making public-sector jobs more attractive is also a concern at the state level, as the Rules Committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives met Oct. 7 for an interim study of state employee pay.

Rep. Mike Osburn, R-Tahlequah, who led the study, said that state employees can make more money working in the private sector.

"I want state employment to be a place where people want to come to work and stay there," Osburn said in a news release about the interim study. "I want the best people to want to work for the state of Oklahoma, the people of Oklahoma deserve to have the best."

Pam Mulvaney, director of Human Resources at the state Department of Mental Health, shared with legislators that directors of mental health facilities call her on a weekly basis, asking, "How am I going to staff my facility?" Mulvaney said it causes concern when a newly opened fast-food restaurant can pay entry level applicants $1 an hour more than the Department of Mental Health is offering.