Council Authorizes Reorganization of Emergency Communications Department

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PUBLISHED 9/21/2021

At the Sept. 21 special Lawton City Council meeting, the council voted to authorize the City Manager to reorganize the city’s Emergency Communications Department.

This reorganization includes the reclassification of department positions with necessary pay adjustments, the installation of a new shift schedule, adding a deputy director position and the implementation of new policies and procedures specific to the Emergency Communications Department.

According to City Manager Michael Cleghorn, the reorganization of the department was necessary for employee wellbeing and retention.

“All of our departments have struggled during this pandemic, especially our Emergency Communications Department,” Cleghorn said. “Our telecommunicators currently work eight-hour shifts, but due to staffing issues, whether impacted by the pandemic or staff shortage, those days were turning into 10-to-12-hour consecutive days. Also, our recent NOVAK report over performance management cited that national statistics rate dispatcher turnover rate at approximately 21 percent. We believe that improving overall pay and benefit package will benefit our current employees and retain them while attracting qualified applicants.”

The reorganization will include pay adjustments, that will bring the starting annual salaries to over $19.00 per hour. The Cellular Phone System Fund will be utilized to fund the City of Lawton portion of the pay increases, with Comanche County taking responsibility for paying 20 percent of the salaries.

A 2-2-3 form schedule consisting of four teams of employees will be implemented to allow for a more flexible schedule. A deputy director position will be added to the department to provide additional leadership and assist in quality control for the department. A set of policies and procedures specific to the Emergency Communications Department will be implemented to provide formal direction and guidance to employees and create greater consistency of service.

According to Emergency Communications Director Jessica Carter, the implementations outlined in the reorganization plan will put the City of Lawton’s department on a level playing field with similar sized communities.

“Our department answers the call for all emergency services in Comanche County,” Carter said. “We dispatch for responders within Lawton city limits and throughout Comanche County. Our dispatchers go through two to three months of training before they begin assisting emergency callers and are fully trained within a year of working. Our community is unique in that we are responding for multiple agencies within a wide area, so this reorganization will provide beneficial improvements to our staff and the department as a whole.”

The implementation of the department’s reorganization strategy is scheduled to begin Oct. 4, 2021. The Emergency Communications Department currently has Telecommunicator I positions open. Those interested in applying can do so at this link: