Congresswoman Norma Torres

Representing the 35th District of California
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Torres to OMB: 911 Dispatchers Are More Than Office & Support Staff

September 8, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-CA) sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget to object to their classification of 911 dispatcher, or “public safety telecommunicator”, as an “Office and Administrative Support Occupation” in the draft Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) and to urge them to classify this position as a “Protective Service Occupation” in the final SOC structure.


“As a former 911 dispatcher, I know that public safety telecommunicators are critical partners to our first responders who do far more than simply answer a phone and send for help,” said Torres.  “Dispatchers work during life-or-death situations and on any given day might direct police to a crime that’s in progress, provide lifesaving first aid, or speak to a caller on the brink of suicide, and they, just like police, are mobilized during critical incidents like massive fires, civil unrest, or major weather events.”


The SOC system is used by federal agencies to classify workers for purpose of collecting, calculating, disseminating data.  OMB is currently in the process of revising the SOC for 2018 and has opened the draft for public comment until September 20th


“You would be hard-pressed to find ‘office and administrative support’ personnel required to receive the kind of extensive training required of dispatchers or working under such strenuous conditions,” continued Torres.  “This is a specialized occupation that requires professionals to think critically and use their skills and training to help our first responders save lives and keep our communities safe.  The current classification is not only inaccurate.  It diminishes the important vital role dispatchers play and perpetuates a stereotype that impacts the resources available to dispatchers and 911 systems, particularly at a time of rapid technological changes and increasing demands.” 


Rep. Torres worked for 17 years as a dispatcher for the Los Angeles Police Department.  She has long advocated for greater resources for training and professionalization of the public safety telecommunicator workforce and for modernizing 911 systems across the country.  A copy of the letter can be found here.