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Texas PD overspends OT budget using sergeants to fill in 911 vacancies

Austin sergeants work overtime as call takers in addition to their other duties as department struggles with vacancies



By Bill Carey

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin police sergeants are doing extra duty, earning overtime while working as 911 call takers, and that extra work has already pushed the department’s overtime spending beyond what was budgeted.

“There’s a kind of staffing emergency or crisis or problem right now, and we’re having trouble staffing up certain areas, including call taking,” Sgt. Lee Knouse told KVUE.

When KVUE reported on the sergeants volunteering to work as call takers, there were nearly 50 vacancies for call takers, about half of the 104 call takers the department needs to be at full staff. There are also 16 dispatchers and 7 other positions that need to be filled.

The sergeants working overtime to fill in those vacancies have pushed the police department over its already maxed-out budget. The department budgeted over $7.7 million for the entire 2023 fiscal year, and they’ve already spent more than $13 million in six months.

“It’s also been good for me to see what they do and the challenges, or just what a unique and challenging skillset it is to answer the phone, to listen to some of these problems,” Knouse said.

“It can be a stressful job, but it’s also really rewarding. I see that there’s a lot of job satisfaction through the call takers,” he said. “I also see that they do have a certain amount of stress, so I think they’re really good at kind of reaching out and understanding the stress levels.”