≡ Menu

Changes After Murder

Prince George’s County (Md.) officials say they have made some changes in the wake of a murder that highlighted dispatching issues. Vernon Herron, the county director of public safety, confirmed that two dispatchers and a supervior are on paid administrative leave while the investigation is completed. The victim dialed 911 to report his car was being taken by a tow truck, but the dispatcher believed it was being repossessed and told the man to call back within an hour to check on the car. The man followed the tow truck, and was shot and killed by someone in the truck. Herron said supervisors now must hold monthly meetings with dispatchers where a sampling of calls will be reviewed for compliance with procedures. “It’s a science that cannot be deviated from,” Herron told a reporter. He said 131 dispatchers handle about 4,000 telephone calls a day for police, fire and sheriff’s services. Read more about the aftermath here.

NENA on Next-Gen 911

After nearly six years of work, NENA announced it has formed a joint Technical and Operations working group to focus on the development of a next-generation 911 system and a PSAP transition plan. According to the group, the effort, “will provide a detailed roadmap of present and future activities toward the transition to a NG9-1-1 system and the subsequent operation of that system.” The project will work towards converting the nation’s separate, locally-operated 911 networks into an inter-networked, IP based NG9-1-1, “with greatly expanded capabilities for emergency call/message handling, multimedia emergency communications, and data acquisition, management and sharing.” In their press release, NENA also included a timeline of their efforts.

Dispatcher Suspended

DeWitt County (Ohio) officials have suspended dispatcher Mike Harris after an address mix-up in early October delayed the response to a medical emergency that ended with the victim’s death. However, Clinton police chief Mike Reidy said an internal investigation determined the delay was not a factor in the woman’s death. Harris attempted to confirm the town the caller was in, but the caller’s “Yes” response apparently referred to his street address. Reidy declined to detail the length of the suspension or other details of the discipline. Read more about how the incident occurred here.

Grants for New Tech

The federal National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is soliciting applications to research, develop, and evaluate emerging communication technology solutions for public safety agencies. More specifically, they are focusing on technologies such as multiband radio, including software-defined radio (SDR) and hardware radios; cognitive radio technologies; location technologies with real-time updates; non-terrestrial technologies such as satellite and other airborne solutions; alternative technologies for interconnection of repeater sites; multiband radio antennas; mobile hybrid technology for wireless broadband data; and VoIP telephony issues such as location information and monitoring. The NIJ takes applications from states and local governments, profit and non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, and qualified individuals. Download (pdf) the full grant information here.

Dispatcher for City Council

Retired 911 dispatcher Jerry Cannon is campaigning for a position on the Morgantown (Ken.) City Council. The 50 year-old Cannon spent 27 years as a dispatcher, and was born and raised in Morgantown. He would like to help restore the city. “We need jobs desperately because we are lacking an avenue for a lot of upgrades in our community. The people here need work for their families to try to live a comfortable life, which we all deserve.” He’s running against a businessman, a former teacher and a car salesman.

Accused Dispatcher Resigns

The Bexar County (Tex.) Sheriff’s Department says that 911 supervisor Barbara Villarreal, 44, turned in her resignation last week after she was released from jail. The 14-year veteran, her boyfriend and a neighbor were arrested by federal officials in connection with a drug ring that allegedly took delivery of 800 pounds of marijuana. Villarreal was accused of participating in the ring, and of using her position to warn others of pending drug investigations.

Wild Ride With 911

“I’m in a high-speed chase I don’t want to be in,” said the voice when a Hutchinson County (Kan.) dispatcher answered a 911 call last September. Even as the chase continued at speeds up to 100 mph, Darrin Moran continued to talk to the unnamed dispatcher, explaining that he had just been picked up by his buddy, and that he was an innocent bystander. The chase continued through two counties, and dispatchers received reports of gunfire. When the truck finally skidded off the road, officers and deputies discovered only the police had been shooting at the truck–neither occupant was armed. Read the full story of how an officer was criminally charged for firing 31 shots at the truck, and listen to Moran’s 911 call here.

Dispatchers Honored

Seattle (Wash.) police dispatchers Debra Cepeda and Lieth Nedell were honored at the annual Seattle Police Foundation‘s awards banquet for their handling of a 911 call last July from a shooting victim during which the suspect came on the line. Cepeda appeared in a pre-taped video during the banquet, recounting some of the shooting at the Jewish Federation offices that ended with one death and five injuries. “This was such an incredibly fast event from beginning to end, from the time shots were fired until he just finally said, ‘OK, I’m coming out, I’m giving up,'” Cepeda said on the video. Cepeda is a 23-year veteran, while Nedell had just 13 months experience. Read more here.

Chase Mis-Communication

Two Georgia law enforcement agencies are studying how and why they chased a mini-van on Interstate 75 at speeds of nearly 100 mph, until it finally blew a tire on spike strips and pulled over. Interestingly, the driver was a Houston County sheriff’s sergeant enroute to assist a deputy, and the chaser was a state trooper who had clocked the van with radar at 93 mph. Both officers had radio contact with their own dispatcher, but neither had the ability to communicate with each other, a newspaper story pointed out. The mix-up apparently stemmed from a mis-communication: the county dispatcher believed the pursuing trooper was also responding to back-up the deputy needing help. In fact, one trooper was pursuing, and a second was responding to help the deputy. Read the full account here.

Deputy Shot During Stop

A Sacramento County (Calif.) sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed by the driver of a white van who escaped after the encounter, and is still on the loose. Dep. Jeffrey Mitchell, 43, stopped the van at 3:30 a.m. in a very rural part of the county and, according to news accounts, used his laptop to enter the details–Meiss Rd. east of Dillar Rd., white van, one occupant, no license plate. Just minutes later Mitchell’s radio keyed briefly, but there was no voice transmission. A sheriff’s dispatcher then tried to reach him on the radio, and then called his cellular phone, but there was no answer. The dispatcher then sent deputies Code 3 to check on him. A deputy arrived at 3:37 a.m. to find him mortally injured, his handcuffs out, and evidence of a struggle at the rear of the patrol car. Mitchell’s handgun may have been fired. The search for the van and suspect continues.

Huge 911 Outage

Allegheny County’s (Penn.) 911 system suffered a 7-hour, software-caused outage that caused at least 100 calls to become lost, possibly contributing to the death of a 5 month-old boy. County officials explained that some sort of “code” was attached to an inactive phone number, and that when that number entered the 911 system, the suffix code disabled the entire network. County and phone officials weren’t sure why the number appeared and why the code was attached. During the outage, a father found his infant son unconscious, and reported he tried to dial 911 for 19 minutes, although county officials couldn’t confirm that. The father performed CPR and eventually called police, who sent EMS units that arrived 19 minutes after his first 911 call. Read more here.

Dispatcher Receives Scholarship

You’ll recall the heroism of EMS dispatcher Joseph Jackson, who helped rescue three women from their flaming Brockton (Mass.) home on his way home from work. Now Jackson’s employer, Angels Health Care Co., has offered him a scholarship to show their appreciation for his actions. “The gentleman, after working a long shift, risked his life to save others,” said company owner Dr. Mazen Eneyni. Jackson, 25, is a five-year dispatcher, and said he’s always wanted to further his emergency medical career. He will use the scholarship to attend an EMT certification program.

Phase II Crash Save

A Topeka (Kan.) motorist who crashed his pick-up truck off Interstate 70 was located by dispatchers at the Shawnee County’s Consolidated Emergency Communications Center, which implemented Phase II wireless E911 features just two months ago. The 42 year-old man’s truck left the roadway as he reached for his cellular phone, rolled on its side and then slid underneath a bridge. He was unconscious for 30 minutes, but then awoke to dial 911. He gave the calltaker the last off-ramp he had passed, but that location turned out to be over a mile away in the other direction. Dispatchers immediately saw his location as just south of SE 10th Street, and dispatched units to the location. Center director Bill Singer told a reporter that without Phase II, “I don’t know if we would have ever found him.”

Dispatcher Arrested–Drugs

A 14-year veteran Bexar County (Tex.) sheriff’s dispatch supervisor has been arrested by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and accused of running the criminal histories of potential partners in a drug smuggling operation in which she was involved. Agents arrested Barbara Villareal, 44, her husband and a neighbor, and recovered 800 pounds of marijuana from a tractor-trailer. Her arrest affadavit also said Villereal had used her position to warn her drug partners when law enforcement officers were operating near their stash house. Villareal was jailed, but then posted $50,000 bond. The sheriff’s department put her on 10 days paid leave, and a spokesperson said they would immediately begin termination actions.

Dispatcher For City Council

The November election of Pittsburgh (Penn.) city council members includes Independent candidate David Schuilenburg, 33, who lives in Summer Hill and works there as a dispatcher. Interestingly, he can run for office as a Canadian citizen living here as a permanent resident, but he can’t vote for himself on election day. Schuilenburg opposes the “old guard” on the city council, and his Web sites promotes, “Decreasing the cost of local government & doing more with less, all while maintaining or improving end services to the local tax payer.” Read more about his campaign here.