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Concerned citizens: Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Combined Communications Center struggles amidst staffing crisis and mismanagement

Letter to the editor

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) Combined Communications Center is facing a significant crisis as it struggles to provide adequate response to emergency calls due to a shortage of call-takers. This dire situation has exposed a broader issue of mismanagement within the Sheriff’s Office, prompting multiple employees to consider resigning due to overwork and mounting stress.

Shortage of Call-Takers at the Combined Communications Center

The ACSO Combined Communications Center, responsible for handling 911 emergency calls, has been grappling with a severe shortage of call-takers, resulting in delayed response times and compromised emergency services. Once staffed with five or more call-takers per shift, the ACSO Combined Communications Center is now routinely staffed by one to three individuals per shift. Distress calls have reportedly gone unanswered or experienced extensive wait times, leaving residents in distress and in vulnerable situations.

County officials have expressed deep concern over this alarming development, as every second counts in emergency situations. The lack of timely responses not only puts the lives of residents at risk but also underscores the urgency of addressing the underlying management issues within the Sheriff’s Office.

Mismanagement and Overworked Staff

Sources within the ACSO have pointed to mismanagement as a root cause of the current crisis. Allegations of poor leadership, inadequate resource allocation, and inefficient work practices have begun to surface, painting a picture of an organization struggling to provide essential public safety services.

Reports suggest that the chronic understaffing at the Combined Communications Center is emblematic of a larger pattern of mismanagement throughout the Sheriff’s Office. At present, the remaining call-takers are “mandated” to work 240 hours per month, up from 160 hours per month last year, due to inadequate staffing. Multiple employees have voiced their frustration and exhaustion, with some considering resigning due to the untenable workload. The resulting work environment has taken a toll on staff morale and their ability to effectively respond to emergencies.

Potential Impact on Public Safety

The ongoing issues at the ACSO Combined Communications Center have raised concerns among local residents about the level of public safety they can expect. With inadequate staffing and a lack of resources, the ability of the Sheriff’s Office to protect and serve the community effectively has come into question.

Community leaders and stakeholders have called for immediate action to rectify the situation, emphasizing the importance of restoring residents’ confidence in their local law enforcement agencies. Public safety advocates have also called for transparent investigations into the alleged mismanagement within the ACSO to prevent similar crises from occurring in the future.

Seeking Solutions

As the situation continues to unfold, there is a growing consensus that a collaborative effort is required to address both the staffing shortage and the broader management issues. County officials, community leaders, and the ACSO administration are expected to work together to find swift and effective solutions that will restore the Communications Center’s ability to respond promptly to emergency calls.

In the meantime, concerned citizens remain hopeful that prompt action will be taken to address the issues plaguing the ACSO Combined Communications Center, ensuring that the residents of Alachua County can rely on timely and effective emergency services without compromise.

Concerned Citizens, Alachua County

The opinions expressed by letter or opinion writers are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AlachuaChronicle.com. Letters may be submitted to info@alachuachronicle.com and are published at the discretion of the editor.

  • How could this possibly happen? We are such a forward looking, educated, inclusive and equitable community! This must be a big mistake …
    👹🤡🤬🍦🍦🍦D

    • It is no mistake. Unfortunately this is a direct result of Sheriff Clovis Watson. His resignation cannot come soon enough but unfortunately the damage has been done. It is no longer just the employees of the Sheriff’s Office’s problem. Everyone who lives, works or conducts business in Alachua County should be concerned. If they encounter an emergency they may call 911 and get no answer, that is a very real concern here.

  • If only there was a pool of people…maybe… that would work for food…

  • 240 hours a month is nearly 60 hours a week. I don’t care what the pay rate is, that is unsustainable in the long run for most people.

    • With changing shifts, severe stress followed by monotony and working any hours of the day, this will ruin your health.

    • …which means the existing people will start to leave, which will make the issue even worse.

      • Existing people are leaving, at an alarming rate! It takes so long for new hires to complete the required training IF they make it through at all! Whomever wrote this letter is really stepping out on a limb, if found out I’m sure they will be another of Clovis’ victims in his reign of terror over the Sheriff’s Office. He has everyone so afraid of retaliation they fear for their job too much to express a concern. I would love to get some total numbers of employees who have quit, been demoted or fired during his short term.

    • Policy allows them to max out at 64 hours per week. Anything over that has to be approved by a supervisor. With the mandates and staffing shortages….everything is approved. It is not sustainable. Mentally or physically. Cletus is a cancer that has spread and infected everything. He is truly toxic.

  • Looks to me like another employee classification who could benefit by receiving a stipend for the services provided to the community. They don’t have the luxury of working from home either.

    • It would be more to the point to find a single elected Democrat in this county and city who wasn’t a mistake.

    • Unfortunately John, under the current ‘leaders’ that won’t solve the lack of leadership skills.

    • I took a $6/hr pay cut when I left, so the money is not the issue.

  • This piece is full on conjecture and is abhorrently misleading. You claim 1-3 call takers a shift. That is blatantly false. There is never a time when a single person is answering or on emergency and non emergency calls. Supervisors as well as fire dispatchers and teletype operators answer and handle overflow of calls when needed.

    Further, I will concede there are staffing issues however any delay in service or a unit responding to a call for service is not at all on the CCC staff. Calls are entered in a priority system, the road Sergeants and supervisors are responsible for delays and not meeting standard response times.

    CCC is held to accreditation standards and monitor and track calls answered within standards and those that are not. I humbly suggest instead of writing an inflammatory letter that you call ACSO and assuming you pass security clearance shadow on the floor and observe how it actually works.

    Respectfully,

    An educated and concerned citizen.

    • As somebody who is familiar with the CCC I can say this is an accurate article. While there is never less than one operator there it is only because of exhausted people working overtime and supervisors having to stop what they are doing to answer the phone. This is obviously not a sustainable situation and needs to be corrected ASAP. The accreditation will not last if this trend continues. If 5 more people resign in the next few months (something that is very likely) it will cripple the effectiveness of the combined communication center.

      Sincerely, a person that is genuinely worried about the future.

    • Is it not true that you are experiencing extreme staffing shortages? Is it not true CCC employees must sign up and max themselves out on overtime CONSISTENTLY? Is it not true if they aren’t maxed out they will be mandated? How many shifts do you have? Of the employees working said shift, how many are working overtime? Is it not true the CCC is hemorrhaging employees? Long time employees leaving in droves? You don’t sound like a concerned citizen, you sound like someone trying to “CYOA”

      Sincerely,

      A TRULY Concerned Citizen

    • Hi Jane Doe 2.0. This is the original Jane Doe and while I agree with *some* of what you are saying, this article is not wrong. It has just been brought to my attention and I am gathering my thoughts. However I had to pause to make sure it was noted that OG Jane Doe was not you. 🙂 I will say this. IF you are concerned about accreditation standards, why would you think having a Fire dispatcher, teletype operator, any dispatcher or supervisor answering the phone so it is answered in less than 10 seconds to make the cut off is safe for anyone? That dispatcher may have a unit that goes on a traffic, triple traffic, building fires, gunshots. Come on Jane Doe 2.0. Get better arguments. Amazing how everything changed as soon as Cletus was sworn in. He is the boss. Good bad or indifferent. He has run the ship into the ground. I digress. This is why I needed to collect my thoughts. Have a good night Jane Doe 2.0.

      • That’s funny. Didn’t realize the radio staff had call taking phones at their stations now and had two headsets on. We both know they only grab calls when it’s already overflow.

        Not once did the first Jane Doe say it was a good or bad thing that other staff covered calls. In fact they were just pointing out and defending your people in CCC.

        But it seems a few holster sniffers got offended that it was pointed out it’s the badges not dispatchers responsible for delays in service.

        Also it’s a letter to the editor not an article. Subtle but attention to detail matters. Thought you’d know that being a dispatcher but my mistake. If you paid attention to the letter they put any delays on the shoulders of CCC not the road units but bravo sure you made yourself feel so brave and proud while flirting with badges on radio.

        Finally hope you all at least used public WiFi or a VPN. Curious how many IP addresses are coming from 2621 SE in here.

        • Au contraire, mon frere. Your first mistake is calling anyone “radio staff”. Secondly, the fact that you “didn’t realize” that said “radio staff” had “call taking phones” and “two headsets on” shows your ignorance. Third, why is there overflow? There should only be overflow in a natural disaster, mass casualty incident or some other truly catastrophic event, not at 0830 on a Tuesday.

          The first Jane Doe did not have to say if it was good or bad that others answered the phone. Common sense would tell you it is bad. How can anyone be prepared to copy traffic and be the lifeline for their unit on the road or be ready for a building to collapse for the fire fighters working an active structure fire if they are also talking to a citizen that needs to give their infant CPR because they just found them at the bottom of the pool?

          Holster sniffer? You could not be further from the truth (at least for me) but it is very telling that you resulted to assuming and name calling and not the facts. Good job.

          It is a letter to the editor. It is a letter to the editor that is long overdue. People talk about the shortage of deputies and per usual dispatch is always the last on the list when they are the first, first responders and get the least respect.

          And lastly “attention to detail”, Mr. Mrs. Ms. Them. (however you identify) Badge Bunnies lol…the original article is very well written, separated into categories notated by bolded headers for each section. A reader can see that in paragraph #2, under the header “Shortage of Call-Takers at the Combined Communications Centers”, that the very first sentence says “has been grappling with a severe shortage of call-takers, resulting in delayed response times and compromised emergency services.” That sentence is in direct correlation to ANSWERING THE PHONE! It clearly supports the header of the paragraph. Again, as the first, first responders, if there is a delay in answering the phone, there is a delay in CPR (as everyone in that room answering the phone is CPR certified, there is a delay in getting a call started which gets a unit on their way to the home where the father having a mental health crisis and holding his family hostage at gun point, there is a delay in emergency services period.

          The first Jane Doe made it about unit response time, which is an entirely different conversation. This article is about the communications center. The first Jane Doe also said “There is never a time when a single person is answering or on emergency and non emergency calls.” As you say, “subtle but attention matters”. Well…that sentence makes zero sense – so there is that. And if they are trying to say that one person does not answer multiple lines, than that is a blatant lie. I will not assume what they meant.

          Your passive aggressive tone speaks volumes and again, you assume I flirt with badges on the radio. How very evolved of you to result to throwing sand on the play ground instead of using your words and facts. Bravo to you! Good day, Badge bunnies lol!

          • Oh man this is so accurate. The CCC is a disaster waiting to happen. One major call and almost everyone including dispatchers and supervisors will be tied up on the phone. God help the person that is calling for a separate emergency. They will be waiting. It is DANGEROUS and at this point it is likely to happen. I am all for the staff members and administrators at the CCC, but everyone needs to understand the consequences of what will happen if this continues.

          • Unfortunately you are correct. We are one major call away from making national headlines or even worse having a law named after us. You only have a law named after you when you really mess up. Just google Amber’s Law, Marsy’s Law, the Denise Amber Lee Act or even the failures of the 911 system and the Parkland Shootings. Cletus will be long out of office, leaving CCC and the new sheriff to face the media and take the hit. It is mind-boggling.

            As others have stated before, it takes time to hire and train people to be able to work those positions. And Cletus tied the hands of the previous CCC leadership and did not allow any of their potential hires to pass the initial process. Once Cletus replaced that leadership with his hand-picked, potentially nepotistic leadership… suddenly there are new hires. The damage has been done. Again, it takes time to train someone. And many people do not make it. They realize it wasn’t what they thought (and that is ok) or they do not pass the rigorous testing. Because yes, there is rigorous testing. Many people may not know but it takes a special person with a special skill set to be able to do that job.

            I don’t know how he can look at the County Commission and claim he has saved them so much money, when it is from so many vacant positions. Long-term employees have left with no job to go to because they would rather be unemployed than work for him. How sad is that.
            Do you think that even registers with him? Nope. It is everyone else’s fault but his. He has unjustly terminated individuals. Individuals that do not fall under the PBA and therefore have no recourse because Florida is a “right to work” state. There is a policy called DIR-122 that specifically outlines disciplinary procedures that Cletus, DeCoursey and Baby Rush just arbitrarily decide if and when they want to follow. As the letter states, there should be transparent investigations into their alleged mismanagement. A transparent investigation into why each employee is no longer employed. Perhaps, there would be more deputies and/or dispatchers. Can we make that happen?

            Cletus should not get to back out of the election to avoid his dereliction of duty becoming exposed. He should not get to “retire in lieu of” to avoid facing the public and admitting the wrongs he has done. Cletus should be held accountable for every penny he has misappropriated, every policy he has broken, every employee he has unfairly treated. And Baby Rush should be disbarred for either giving him such sage advice or looking the other way and letting it happen.

            I am sorry this letter to the editor was written. I am sorry because it is the truth. It is so very, very sad that the public is realizing that when they call 911 and are put on hold it is because the people that answered are juggling several other phone lines, potentially radio channels and have had such little hours of sleep…for weeks on end.

            I was born into a God-loving, military family that respects decorum and spent my summers at Joe Crevasse’s beach house. I gave Cletus a chance but he is truly evil and should face criminal charges. He can never right his wrongs to the agency and to the citizens of Alachua County. Meanwhile, he collects retired Sheriff’s benefits for life and we wait for catastrophe.

            Let’s Go Cletus! (insert eye roll)

          • That is true I was working the night of the big incident on the interstate years ago and when it first happened the phones lit up and fully staffed there was too many calls to handle

    • Not true. Living in “rural” Alachua County, I’ve had the comms center claim that my road didn’t exist because they couldn’t find it on their system. My local town PD officer lives on my road, and I pay taxes so yes my road does exist. Begging comms to believe me that my road exists was frustrating. Luckily it wasn’t an emergency. These are staffing and training issues, not to mention a lack of top level leadership (Watson), and not fair to comms employees nor to the community.

  • These dispatcher are the backbone of the agency Everything goes through them and they are present with every officer on the road. It is time to care for them in every way possible to include making the position a high risk occupation. God bless them all❤️

  • I worked there for 5 yrs and worked 128hrs in 11 days with 3 days off most of the time due to staffing issues. It takes a toll on you and your family. I feel for my friends that are still there but unfortunately it takes almost 6 months to properly train someone to do the job, there is no quick fix to getting more people in those positions. Raising pay only goes so far as you come to realize time is much more important than money I could of been making almost 6 figures with all the overtime but at what cost? My Family? My health?

  • The Sheriff has effectively quit, but seems to be padding his employment an additional 2 months. Maybe the Governor can officially accept an immediate termination and appoint his replacement now.

  • I can vouch for the troubles in CCC. Ever since GPD sold their comm center to ASO it has been nothing but a disaster.
    About that time, I believe judge Green (Buzzie) issued an order that this newly created comm ctr be fully staffed at all times.
    Sadly that hasn’t happened and NO ONE has been held accountable.
    That place is a ticking time bomb 💣

  • I am a former employee who worked for three different Sheriffs (Oelrich, Darnell and Clovis). I left and went to another agency with a Sheriff who has integrity and takes care of his people and the community.

    Clovis has made so many decisions, most of which have been reported on. I my humble opinion, Clovis destroyed CCC and the morale of those (what little was left) when he “transferred” the most amazing director the center ever had, Michelle Klement. She and Kim Kutner, were the backbone of CCC. Even though they both had administrative positions, they put their literal blood, sweat and tears into that building and its people. Not only did they staff the center to cover days off, but they cleaned, painted, redecorated and spent their own money in many attempts to make life less stressful in a hugely stressful environment. The straw that broke the camels back for me was when we lost Michelle, but I tried to make it work. However when my health began to decline, my leave of absence was denied AND that same day I was mandated to work four hours more overtime during a week I was already working 60 hours I left.

  • Aren’t you all the ones that had a training person tell people on Facebook to let them call 911 when she was working because they had negative views about police or something similar?

    Maybe you need to clean your own house before you go off on people for opinions? Enjoy staying classified as secretaries. Some of you that obviously work there are trying to hold a moral high ground and insult a person who, like or not, was elected by those you work for and allegedly represent. You’d think professionalism would be a core value.

    • Really? What does that have to do with anything? Did you not read the letter? This has absolutely nothing to do with professionalism and EVERYTHING to do with the complete and utter mismanagement of the Sheriff’s Office. Whether you like or support Sheriff Watson does not matter whatsoever, the indisputable fact is, since he has taken office the agency has suffered immensely and has hemorrhaged employees, both on the road and in the CCC leaving employees overworked and they are mandating staff to work insane hours of overtime. Do you know what you get when employees are overworked to this extent? If they don’t leave, they are NOT gonna be on their game. Do you want someone who is exhausted and burnt out handling your emergency? The villain here is NOT the CCC employees or the person who wrote this letter, the villain here is the administration who has KNOWN about the issue and chooses to do nothing about the problem. Calling these dedicated, hardworking employees “secretaries” is absolutely absurd and beyond disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself, but I doubt a troll such as yourself is smart enough to comprehend that. Should they put professionalism or the safety of the community first? The fact that if you encounter an emergency and call 911 and you may not get an answer is a big problem and a dangerous one. The population of Alachua County is, at last record 287,807, if even a fraction of those people all call 911 at the same time, which is very likely to happen, do you think 1-3 people who are dedicated to specifically answer the phone are enough? Yes, other positions within the CCC can grab the overflow but that’s if they’re not already assisting deputies or other positions on the road. Dispatch is the lifeline for deputies on the road and she be able to fully dedicate their time to assisting them. If they’re too busy filling in for other positions they cannot adequately assist units on the road. Does the danger that comes with that really need to be spelled out for you? The call takers are the lifeline for EACH AND EVERY SINGLE person who calls 911. Without them, NOTHING gets done. They ARE THE FIRST, FIRST RESPONDERS. Don’t you dare try to diminish the importance of their role. These hardworking, devoted individuals have given more than enough, it’s time for them to get the support the need and deserve. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have never needed one, and thank God for that, but on what may very well be the absolute worst day of your life, when you or someone you know needs them, you will pray to God that one of these “secretaries” will be there to answer the phone. I am proud to know and love the employees of the CCC and will gladly stand beside them on this. They, along with the citizens of the county deserve so much more.

    • So you want thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of Florida 911 dispatchers to be punished because of one person who said something idiotic years ago? I thought she should’ve, at the very least, been demoted and removed from training when that happened so I am not defending her at all.

    • Here’s the thing. The incident that you are referring to has nothing to do with this letter. That employee that you speak of was disciplined. House cleaned. End of story.

      No one is going off on anyone for having opinions. I see a lot of support for the author and education to commenters in the comment section. I also see some negative name calling, allegations and shade.

      I can almost guarantee you and Badge bunnies lol that most of the supporters y’all think are employees or using 2626 Wi-Fi or will have OPS knocking at their door…will not. There is f#%ckery afoot and someone has finally shed some light on it. As I said in one of my previous comments, dispatch is always last on the list. So for the letter to be written, Cletus truly has destroyed everything.

      As for holding the moral high ground? Forgive me if I still believe that justice will always prevail. I still have rose colored glasses and think that there is good in this world and that the right outcome happens if we just have patience. Forgive me if I put my faith in the system even though it has personally failed me time and time again. There is no moral high ground. But for a man to stand there as if he has the moral high ground and show total disregard for any rule or regulation and Florida statute, for him to lie, cheat and steal and condemn others for less egregious offensives…I have a problem with that.

      As far as elections go…again, another conversation. You should research Robert Brinkman and his relationship with Cletus and elections going back to 2012. Amazing how he always comes in last minute to lock it down to exclude half of the voters so Cletus wins. Coincidence?

      If Cletus was humble and admitted his mistakes than there might be different feelings. It is his total disconnect, pompous, righteous attitude that is disconcerting. So yes, you would think professionalism would be a core value.

      • Well since you claim it’s of no concern for OPS or anyone to look into it why the anonymity and aliases? You had one person here with enough integrity to put their ID number on a post why not the rest of you that obviously work there?

        Afraid of the blow back you say won’t happen?

        • What aliases are you referring to “Jose Diaz”? John Doe is my father-law, Joe Doe is my husband, Rogers Corner is my uncle, Tired is my niece on my daddy’s side, Fred Sanford and his wife Elizabeth live down the street and I love Being A Dispatcher dog sits for us. ID # 8675309.

          As stated, the author went out on a limb to write this. I believe to shed some light on a situation that the nameless and faceless heroes in CCC have been telling Cletus but he has refused to hear. Also as stated, there is a great fear of retaliation because THAT is a healthy work environment. A leader is only as good as their team.

          Instead of someone saying “Oh gosh, is this true? We should look into this. We should fix this”. Name calling and accusations started. I apologize for being passionate about defending those that have sacrificed so much to make sure that phone gets answered every time it rings. I know they are some of the most dedicated and selfless people in this county that have stood by silently and watched the agency crumble around them and still show up every day, every night, every birthday, holiday, first day of school to be ready for anything. It breaks my heart they don’t usually have public support but especially now when it is needed most. They need relief. And yes, more money is nice but so is your sanity and time with their loved ones. When do these heroes get a break?

          Some of y’all are out for blood and want to crucify the commenters instead of looking at the issue and being mad at the issue. What is wrong with y’all? I’ve never been a “keyboard warrior” but dang. These people have done everything right and continue to do everything right, including putting all of this on the desk of Cletus and he has blatantly ignored their cries for help. Where is your outcry for that? Where is your outcry for justice?

          You want names, numbers, first borns, etc. to get people in trouble…why? Why can’t we just deal with the actual issues? Sorry, guess it’s just my rose colored glasses again. I will sleep well tonight knowing if I need to make a call that someone will answer. And that someone may be tired but they will genuinely care about my issue and make sure I get help. And they don’t even know me.

          🖤💛🖤

      • Simple question- why the anonymity and fake names if you’re so confident there will be no blow back from violating SOP and DMS? You had one person, I’m assuming is long gone btw, that had the integrity to put their ID number out there. Care to do the same? Or maybe print this out and walk to the sheriff suite and see how it goes?

        • Who said there wouldn’t be blow back? Of course there will be. Why do you think Watson had so many lawsuits against him? He’s crooked as it gets. The person who wrote the letter is not the enemy. The people who are in the comments talking about REAL issues aren’t the enemy here. Seems like you and “Jane Doe 2.0” are only interested in covering for either yourselves or a friend. The last people who spoke out about Watson’s misuse of funds that were allocated to the CCC coincidentally was demoted. All for standing up for what was right. So yeah, people feel the need to remain anonymous. If you think the solution is to put a target on those speaking out and going on a manhunt to find out who is writing factual comments on a letter that should never had to have been written in the first place the YOU are the problem. What exactly is position in the agency? Clearly not one who knows the situation in the CCC, when everyone else is gone maybe you can start answering the phone.

        • My ID when I was hired in 1995 was 446 and when I resigned in 2023 it was 223. Feel better?

    • I agree. They’re too dumb to mask IP addresses and probably making comments on work time. Conduct unbecoming and all that Enjoy the leave without pay.

      • It does sound dumb because that’s not even the correct wording. 🤦‍♀️

        • It was sarcasm and an intentional point on how ridiculous first first responder sounds but ok.

          • Say you know NOTHING about the job without saying you know nothing about the job. They absolutely are the first, first responders. They are the FIRST line of contact, they collect important information for the responders on the scene and provide live saving instructions just as CPR, first aid and can even can walk someone through how to deliver a baby, so what else would you call them? Your mindset is exactly the problem, you don’t think of them as first responders when they 100% are, without them how would officers, deputies, paramedics or fire rescue know that there is an issue at or where to go? They wouldn’t. When someone calls and there is a violent situation it is up to the person on the phone to gather as much information as possible to protect the citizens and responding units. When your infant has stopped breathing, who do you call? When your spouse collapses and begins to turn blue, who is gonna walk you through the steps to revive them before a unit ever hits the road. You say they not first responders, don’t call them then.

          • It may sound ridiculous to you; however, it is common nomenclature in the first responder community.

    • We have a calming room that the previous Manager (Klement) and Kutner fixed up, painted and refurbished for us, but we can’t use it if we don’t get breaks and are short handed!

    • Wow, I can’t believe no one thought of that before! That solves everything!

  • Damn, $#it is hitting the fan throughout the entire agency, thanks to Clovis Watson and his clowns…………

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