Arapahoe County dispatchers will now be classified as first responders

New status provides opportunity for better pay, mental health benefits

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In Arapahoe County, 911 emergency dispatchers will now be classified as first responders, giving them the same status as police, fire and emergency medical personnel.

The new classification gives dispatchers the opportunity for better pay and mental health benefits that were not available to them before because the jobs were considered administrative instead of life saving. The move was supported by the Arapahoe Board of County Commissioners and the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office.

“We've always considered our dispatchers as the first, first responders,” Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown said in a news release. “They are the calm voice in chaos, the guiding light for deputies, and the lifeline that can provide life-saving instructions over the phone. Without them, our deputies couldn't do their jobs.”

Arapahoe County is the second county in Colorado after Pitkin County to classify telecommunicators as first responders.

“The Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners is pleased to support this new classification for 911 emergency dispatchers,” the board said in a joint statement. “Given the vital and stressful work these dedicated professionals do every day, and the critical role they play in responding to life-and-death situations, it's only fitting that they should have access to similar benefits as other first responders.”

Members of Congress introduced the 911 SAVES Act in 2019 that, if passed, would give the nation's 100,000 public safety communicators more resource and benefits. In September, a new law took effect in Texas that raised the status of dispatchers to first responders and gave them more benefits and training. 

In 2019, dispatchers managed 317,810 calls and 911 texts. In 2018, they managed 323,000 calls. Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office dispatchers provide service for unincorporated areas of Arapahoe County and Bennett, Bow Mar, Centennial, Cherry Hills Village, Cherry Creek State Park, Columbine Valley, Deer Trail, Foxfield, Sheridan, South Suburban Parks and Recreation District and specialized task forces.  

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