Colorado county elevates 911 dispatchers to first responders

February 6, 2020 GMT

AURORA, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado county elevated its 911 dispatchers to first responders, granting them the same status as police, fire and emergency medical personnel, officials said.

The 27 dispatchers in Arapahoe County were previously classified as clerical workers, The Sentinel reports.

The change enacted Wednesday will put county dispatchers into a seven-year step system that provides higher pay and increased access to mental health benefits, Officials said.

The Arapahoe Board of County Commissioners approved an $180,000 budget request to fund the change last year, Chairwoman Nancy Sharpe said.

Arapahoe County is the second jurisdiction in Colorado to designate dispatchers as first responders.

At least six states have enacted similar reclassifications in recent years, said Monica Million, president of the National Emergency Number Association, an industry advocacy group.

California Democratic U.S. Rep. Norma Torres introduced a federal measure last year that would designate all dispatchers as first responders. The legislation is awaiting a committee hearing.

Arapahoe County chose to preempt the federal legislation, county Sheriff Tyler Brown said.

“If we start to take these steps right now then I think we’ll be ahead of the curve,” Brown said. “And we might be able to push more counties to do it.”