KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City police commissioners say they remain unhappy over wait times people are reporting when they dial 911.

Kansas City police say when 911 callers must wait to speak to someone, the average wait time is only 27 seconds.

“I just don’t think the evidence of what normal people tell me is 27 seconds,” Commissioner Mark Tolbert said during the board’s meeting on Tuesday.

Police commissioners say they hear from callers who claim they’ve had to wait a lot longer.
When people call 911 for help and instead hear a recording telling them to hold, their first impression of Kansas City police isn’t likely to be a good one.

“That’s how the community contacts us. And if we don’t have people answering those phones then people who need help aren’t getting help,” Commissioner Cathy Dean said.

“So, I want all of our people to be paid well and taken care of well, but we have to have people who are saying, ‘911,’ and, ‘we’ll be there.’”

With starting pay at nearly $20.50 an hour, those who have to make split-second decisions as call takers and dispatchers say boosting pay would help attract more candidates to the job. Kansas City police currently have 34 open positions for 911 call takers and dispatchers.

“I still say we could increase it more and that would definitely attract more people, I believe, because this is a very difficult job and not everybody can do it,” Tamara Bazzle, KCPD communications training supervisor, said.

“To remain competitive, not just with other agencies, but with other organizations throughout the KC area. I think it’s definitely important that we increase our pay.”

Police say they’ve made job offers to eight candidates to fill open 911 call center jobs, including two who were just hired on Monday. Police are also offering $500 bonuses to current employees if they can help recruit friends or family to join them.

Police commissioners say response times should include the time callers are left waiting, with a goal of eliminating wait times altogether.