New director of 911 Communications ready for transitions
COLUMBIA - New Boone County director of 911 communications, Scott Shelton had his first day on the job Friday. In his first news media interview since taking the job, Shelton addressed challenges ahead, the transition and issues the department faces.
"Well it's something I'm very much looking forward to but at the same time it's kind of scary," Shelton said.
The new job marks a return for Shelton who began his career as an officer with the University of Missouri Police Department.
Shelton considers Columbia his home. He has lived the majority of his life in Columbia and graduated from Columbia College.
Shelton's background includes stints as the chief of police at University of Missouri - Kansas City and the University of East Carolina, both which had their own 911 communication centers.
Shelton said he is excited to get to work with his new team over the next week and help with transitions for the 911 communications team.
Columbia and Boone County recently consolidated their joint communications department at the beginning of 2015, and will be moving into a new $20 million facility next year.
Shelton said the process for a smooth transition requires a gradual shift into the new way of doing things.
Shelton said making sure the 911 communications department is well trained is extremely important. Right now most 911 operators are accredited, and Shelton wants to keep it that way.
Shelton said he can improve the system in place.
"I bring the ability to help bring an organization together, to move it forward and to become this best it can be, to go from good to great," Shelton said.
The director of 911 communications position comes with its own challenges. One is the shortage of police officers in the city, creating what is known as "status zero." Status zero is when all police officers are currently occupied and there is no one to handle incoming emergency calls. Status zero requires 911 operators to prioritize different calls, sometimes taking police officers off one call to handle a more serious one. It can also create a backlog at the 911 center, as more and more calls go without a response. Shelton said the secret to handling the issue is communication with the police department, and understanding what they can do to help the officers in the field.
"So we know what the problems are, we know what the issues are and we can stay ahead of the curve, rather than get behind," Shelton said.
Earlier this month, KOMU 8 News reported a federal investigation in to fallen Columbia firefighter Lt. Bruce Britt's death which cited communication issues between dispatchers and crews on the ground. Shelton said he read the report and believes conversations need to be had on what can be done better.
"You learn from those things, thats what you try to do, thats why you have the meetings, thats why you discuss incidents that could happen," Shelton said.
Boone County Human Resources announced Monday Shelton would be taking over effective Friday. He's expected to make a salary of $80,745