HAVERHILL — The city has achieved its goal of moving police officers out of dispatch and back onto the streets and has recently inked its first contract with the newly formed civilian Dispatchers Union Group.
Mayor James Fiorentini said this is the latest milestone in his decade-long effort to convert Haverhill’s 911 dispatchers from police officers to civilians.
He said the deal includes pay increases over three years to make the pay of Haverhill dispatchers competitive with other public safety dispatchers in the region. There are currently 10 civilian dispatchers on the job with two more in the process of being hired to meet the fully budgeted complement of a dozen positions.
“The addition of civilian dispatchers in our budget by Mayor Fiorentini has allowed the Haverhill Police Department to better utilize our police officers by taking them out of dispatch and putting them on the streets in patrol,” Police Chief Robert Pistone said. “Since the inception of civilian dispatchers 11 years ago, Lt. John Barbieri has built a professional Civilian Dispatcher Division by recruiting, hiring and training the best available personnel.”
Prior to civilian dispatch, police officers staffed the 911 line. Hiring civilian dispatchers allows police officers to be on the streets while professional dispatchers answer calls, Pistone said.
In 2018, Fiorentini struck a deal with the police union that allowed civilian dispatch of police calls in exchange for 2% cost of living raises for 2018 and 2019.
Fiorentini noted that a dispatcher is usually the first person the public interacts with when they call 911 in an emergency or for non-emergency police assistance.
“We are very fortunate in Haverhill where our dispatchers have a reputation for being some of the most professional, well-trained in the area," Fiorentini said. "Our dispatchers pride themselves on customer service to our citizens and ensuring that the public receives the services they need, often playing a major role in saving lives."
Pistone stressed how important it is for a busy city like Haverhill to have and retain skilled and experienced public safety dispatchers.
"I am thankful every day for the dedicated and professional men and women who work as Haverhill Police Dispatchers, who just like our police officers work 24/7, 365 days a year keeping our citizens safe," Pistone said.
The mayor added that he supported the dispatchers’ effort to organize.
"We were losing dispatchers so when they expressed a desire to organize, we wanted to support them as part of an effort to keep from losing more of them," he said.