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Oakland announces $2.5M investment to improve troubled 911 system

Oakland resident says slow 911 response raising safety concerns for residents
Oakland resident says slow 911 response raising safety concerns for residents 02:45

OAKLAND – Oakland city leaders announced Monday a $2.5 million investment to improve the city's 911 system, following criticism over slow response times and recent outages.

Mayor Sheng Thao, along with members of the city council, said the additional funding would come from the Oakland-Alameda Joint Powers Authority, which experienced an increase in revenue.

"Response times have been a long-standing issue for our City, and the current situation is unacceptable," Thao said a statement.

As part of the investment, the city plans to increase recruitment and staffing, along with modernizing computer systems.

Currently, the police department's 911 center has 62 dispatch / call-taking staff and 16 vacancies. To address staffing, city administration has authorized continuous recruitment for dispatcher jobs and conducting community outreach to encourage residents to apply.

Since June, Oakland Police has interviewed 79 candidates for dispatch / call taker positions.

Along with hiring, officials announced what they described as a "major" upgrade to the city's computer-aided dispatch system. The city plans to amend its contract with Motorola to implement the company's PremiereOne CAD system.

Officials said they anticipate an "accelerated" six-month launch for the upgraded system, which includes training dispatch and operations staff at the police and fire departments. The change order is expected to cost $150,000.

To avoid future outages, the new 911 system would be hosted in a commercial data center in Oakland with redundant power and cooling systems. The city has also upgraded backup power supply equipment at its current facilities in anticipation of the upgrade.

Upgrades come amid numerous issues involving the 911 system, which receives more than 500,000 calls for service a year. The system has been the subject of grand jury reports and a city audit.

A recent report from the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury found the dispatch center failed to answer about half of the calls it received within 15 seconds. The California Office of Emergency Services mandates 90% of calls should be answered by a live person within 15 seconds and 95% within 20 seconds.

Along with issues over response times, the system experienced outages in July attributed to a power outage.

"While we are currently working on our responses to the Grand Jury report on 911, we are proposing today that these additional funds be used to implement the recommendations of that report and our next steps in improving the system. I look forward to working with the Council to ensure that we put these funds directly to use for all Oaklanders," Thao said.

Anyone who may be interested in applying for a dispatcher job can visit the city's employment website on Positions are listed as "Police Communications Dispatcher."

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