PORTLAND -- A new report shows that 911 operators in the Metro area do not receive sufficient ongoing training, Portland City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade said Monday.

The 911 system also needs improvement when it comes to tracking call trends and complaints over time, the audit showed.

A Bureau of Emergency Communications spokeswoman said the bureau is doing the best it can with its current budget and staff size. They recently lost three positions due to city cuts.

The calls will always come, and we need to make sure we have people in their seats to take those calls, said BOEC Liaison Manager Laura Wolfe. We can't really pull people off the floor to go and do some training on procedures.

The report showed that BOEC had still not fully implemented the improvements suggested in a 2002 audit, including hiring, training and staffing issues. Griffin-Valade said the bureau will have to figure out how to improve in those areas with the current budget and staff.

The operators are telling us they need more time to understand and learn the new rules. Management is saying the operators have that time. But our concern is finding that there is a disconnect there, or that all the operators aren't getting all of the rules at the time that management thinks they do, she said.

In response to the audit, commissioner Steve Novick said he will address the staffing issues during next year's city budget process. He also said he disagreed that there were flaws in the call tracking process.

Since the mayor assigned the bureau to me last month, I have received a weekly report about call-handling complaints, as well as how the bureau handled those complaints, he said. The bureau analyzes all complaints to look for themes and assesses how best to address systemic issues. Of course, ongoing training time is needed to address systemic issues as they arise; as I already indicated, additional resources are needed to allow that training time.

The audit found that BOEC does sufficiently train 911 operators when they start, but needs more follow-up training, especially when adopting new procedures.

Despite its criticisms, the report said Portland 911 operators are doing a good job and the public is not at risk.

Click to read the audit and the responses

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