VALLEJO – The manager of Vallejo’s beleaguered police and fire dispatch departed the city last month, potentially compounding what the dispatcher’s union has previously characterized as a “dangerous” staffing shortage.
Communications manager Aimee Crutcher was no longer employed by the city as of Sept. 15, according to records obtained by the Vallejo Sun through a public records request. According to Crutcher’s LinkedIn profile, she left to become a dispatcher in Vacaville. She had worked for the city since 1996.
The city did not respond to questions about what impact Crutcher's departure will have on dispatch services.
Crutcher herself wrote a memo to police Chief Shawny Williams in May proposing to outsource police and fire dispatch services to the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, like the cities of Dixon and Rio Vista.
Crutcher wrote that as of May, the city had only eight of 20 budgeted dispatcher positions filled and only three of four budgeted communications supervisor positions.
The dispatcher shortage is part of a citywide staffing shortage. Roughly a third of all city jobs were vacant as of April, but for dispatchers the rate was even worse. Another dispatcher left the city in June, according to a city employee separation report.
Crutcher said that because of the long time it takes to train new recruits, the department could not achieve full staffing levels for at least three to five years.
“The Vallejo communications center not only is the busiest center but also is the least paid in the region,” Crutcher wrote, adding that dispatchers were forced to work eight hours of overtime each week, leading to burnout.
“At the current rate of attrition, the communications center may not be able to provide adequate public safety dispatching in the near future without immediate intervention,” Crutcher said.
Crutcher had also raised alarms about the staffing levels last year, when she wrote an email to then-Deputy Police Chief Michael Kihmm saying she had already lost four dispatchers in 2021 as of August.
“While we have been at this level before during bankruptcy and made it work, I have heard rumors of others leaving in the near future,” Crutcher wrote. “I don’t entirely know what it looks like when we can’t operate fully any longer but I can assume based on the cities of Dixon and Rio Vista, that perhaps the Sheriff’s office would need to answer for us after hours.”
Crutcher’s warnings led to a public flap between the chief and the Vallejo Police Officers Association. The VPOA publicly said that the city was considering outsourcing its dispatch services, but the police department responded and accused the VPOA of spreading “mistruths” and said the department had “made adjustments to shift scheduling that ensures the dispatch center is staffed 24/7.”
The dispatchers’ union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, supported the VPOA, and said that while it did not have direct knowledge of city discussions to outsource dispatch, the current situation was untenable.
“Local 1245’s dedicated members will continue to do the best they can until ‘adjustments’ to shifts simply can’t compete with the reality of limited human beings in critical roles,” the IBEW statement said.
Last month, the Vallejo City Council acknowledged the issue and approved a hefty 17% salary hike for the dispatchers and 18% for supervisors after determining that the city’s salaries were 23% below the market median.
Assistant City Attorney Terrance Davis said during the council meeting that dispatchers would receive their raise this month.
“There's been no secret in Vallejo in general that employee retention has been problematic,” Davis said. “Recruitment and retention have both been problematic.”
For dispatchers, Davis said that the city had "some of the most difficulty in terms of recruitment and retention.”
However, the salary boost would not have affected Crutcher. In response to questions from Mayor Robert McConnell, Davis said that the communications manager was represented by a different union: the Confidential, Administrative, Managerial & Professional Association of Vallejo (CAMP.) He said that union also had compensation issues that needed to be addressed.
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Vallejo Police Department
- Vallejo Police Officers Association
- Aimee Crutcher
- Shawny Williams
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
- Terrance Davis
- Robert McConnell
Scott Morris is a journalist based in Oakland who covers policing, protest, civil rights and far-right extremism. His work has been published in ProPublica, the Appeal and Oaklandside.
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