AUSTIN, Texas — While the Austin Police Department is in need of more than 180 officers to help respond to calls, it also needs people to take those calls. 

Right now, the department has 20 open positions for 911 operators and dispatchers. 

RELATED: Austin first responders too slow to respond to 911 calls, new audit finds

April Arzola, a soothing voice on the other line for the last 20 years, said being a 911 operator is a job that requires passion. 

"That caller could be your family member, it could be somebody you love, so we treat everyone as if they are somebody we know," Arzola said.

She said it's also a job that can have high turnover because of the daily stress and pressure.

"It isn't for everyone. We do have people who start and just can't handle it," Arzola said.

RELATED: Police took more than 2 hours to respond to violent crash

While it's not a standard 9-to-5 job, that doesn't scare everyone.

"It's very addicting," Mark Smith, an APD dispatcher for 26 years, said. "When you're able to make sure all of your officers go home safe at night, it's a great feeling."

While it can already be a stressful job, APD's officer shortage is also impacting response times.

"There are calls that hold for longer periods than we want for our department, however, we have no control over that if we don't have officers to take the calls," Stephanie Olguin, a dispatcher for APD, said.

Training supervisor Konnie Schoefeld said Austin dispatchers typically make $17 to $18 an hour. They have to go through training for four to five weeks and then six to 12 weeks of on-the-job training. 

"I think this is a difficult job to do. The shift work, the holidays, the weekends, and maybe some of the stress-related aspects of the job. We are always looking to hire qualified folks, folks that want to come to their community and make a difference," Schoefeld said.

To learn how to apply, click here. 


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