Police officials in Terre Haute (Ind.) have confirmed that the wife of K-9 Officer Brent Long was working in the comm center on Monday when her husband was shot and killed by a suspect during a warrant service. Officials did not say if Danielle Long was working the radio during the incident or how she learned of the shooting. Off. Long and a team of U.S. Marshals had gone to a home on the city’s north side. The suspect opened fire immediately when the team of officers and marshals entered the house Monday afternoon, striking Long several times and wounding his dog Shadow. Officers shot back and killed the suspect. Long was taken to a hospital where he later died. Shadow is in critical condition with a head wound but is expected to survive. Off. Long was a six-year veteran of the agency. He and and his wife Danielle have an 11 year-old daughter and 10 month-old son.
A 13 year-old Elgin (Ill.) girl was home by herself when she heard someone breaking a window, and her first thought was to call her aunt instead of 911. But when the aunt dialed 911 for help, Elgin police dispatcher Kathy Grage called the girl directly and guided her through a frightening ordeal—hiding from two burglars who were trying to take the family’s big-screen television. Grage said she could hear the men in the background of the call, and simultaneously tried to obtain information from the girl and keep her calm and quiet. “Police are just pulling up,” she told the girl towards the end of the call. “I’ve got lots and lots of officers outside. Everything’s going to be okay.” Police arrested two men outside the home and the girl was uninjured. Watch a news video after the break. [click to continue…]
By 2019 all wireless carriers must be using handset-based location technology when handling 911 emergency telephone calls, according to rule changes imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today to improve the accuracy of locating callers. In addition, the FCC is seeking input on how commercial location applications might be leveraged to support 911 networks, and how to improve indoor location accuracy, such as in a skyscraper. Right now, FCC regulations set two different accuracy standards—one for carriers using network-based technologies and a second for those using handset-based tech. The standards take into account that network methods are inherently less accurate, and that in rural areas might be sufficiently accurate to locate callers. However, the Commission has been tightening accuracy rules over the last 10 years, including changing how carriers determine and report their system accuracy to the FCC. The Commission also asked for public comments on how to improve VoIP call location accuracy. Download (pdf) the announcement of the Commission’s order here, and the full Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Third Report and Order, and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking here. Also, download (pdf) FCC commissioners statements on their rulemaking.
A suicidal man who climbed up a Welland (Ont.) bridge at night and perched on a girder ignored officers and negotiators who came to the scene. Instead, he preferred to talk to Niagara Regional Police Communications dispatcher Krista Neilson, and after 49 minutes climbed safely back down to the bridge deck. “I just tried to engage him in anything he wanted to talk about,” Neilson said later. The eight-year veteran said she’s previously handled distraught callers, but it’s the first time she’s dealt with a suicidal person. The man’s mood varied, Neilson said, and it was difficult to manage the ups and downs. “If you stay clam, it encourages them to stay calm,” she said. Read more about Neilson’s reaction to the incident here.
A civil rights watchdog group in the United Kingdom has released information obtained from local police departments showing that 904 officers and civilian employees were disciplined between 2007 and 2010 for improperly accessing criminal justice databases. Another 243 officers and civilians were convicted of criminal violations and 98 were fired, the study found. The group Big Brother Watch says the Merseyside police department alone reported that 208 employees were convicted of Data Privacy Act violations since 2007, more than any other agency. Big Brother Watch director Daniel Hamilton said many employees simply ran background records checks on friends and possible partners, but some were convicted for passing sensitive information to criminal gangs and drug dealers. One police sergeant was sentenced to 12 months in jail upon his conviction. “This is at best hugely intrusive and, at worse, downright dangerous,” Hamilton said in a press release. “Police forces must adopt a zero tolerance approach to this kind of behaviour. Those found guilty of abusing their position should be sacked on the spot.” Download (pdf) the group’s full report on computer intrusions by police officers here.
There are still some residents of Big Sandy (Tex.) who remember what happened 25 years ago—Upshur County dispatcher Rosalie Williams was kidnapped by a high-risk prisoner who escaped from his cell, and held hostage for a day until she escaped from a railroad boxcar. The 25th anniversary of the incident was Sunday, but was not really observed by Williams, whose last name is now Turner. “When people are going through a traumatic experience, they want to forget about it,” Williams-Turner told a reporter for the Longview News-Journal newspaper. On July 10, 1986 prisoner Jerry McFadden was being held on murder charges in the county jail, which was adjacent to the dispatching area where Williams-Turner worked. When a deputy opened his cell door, McFadden struck him with a piece of metal ripped from the window frame. McFadden had Williams-Turner and a co-worker drag the deputy into a cell. He then locked up the deputy and the co-worker, but took Williams-Turner hostage. He unlocked the deputy’s gun from a drawer and forced Williams-Turner outside to her car and the pair drove off. They drove out of town, but ran into a tree when they heard a helicopter overhead. They hid in a boxcar during the day in triple-digit heat until Williams-Turner was nearly unconscious. Finally, when McFadden went to find water, Williams-Turner struggled to her feet and ran to a nearby house for safety. Read more details about the incident and Williams-Turner resolve to survive here.
A 15-year veteran Chicago (Ill.) police-fire dispatcher was killed early this morning as she drove home from work, after her car was struck broadside by a vehicle being chased by Chicago police officers. Marciea Adkins, 42, died at a hospital shortly after the crash, according to Office of Emergency Communications (OEMC) executive director Gary Schenkel. He said comm center personnel were “shocked and deeply saddened” to hear of Adkins’ death, and that grief counselors have been made available. Flags outside the comm center have been lowered to half-staff. Coworkers and supervisors described Adkins as “the nicest, most positive person you would ever want to meet,” he said. Police said Adkins had worked the night shift, and at 6:15 a.m. was driving west on W. Armitage Ave. on the city’s northwest side. At the same time, CPD officers were pursuing a Range Rover northbound on N. Hoyne Ave., after the driver fled from a red-light traffic stop. The vehicle struck a CPD patrol car as it sped off, officers said. At the intersection of the two streets, the Range Rover struck Adkins’ vehicle and spun it into a fire hydrant. The suspect ran from the Range Rover but was quickly captured by police. Police say the Range Rover had been reported stolen. Update: The 16 year-old driver of the stolen car was intoxicated, police allege, and has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder, felony burglary, DUI and traffic violations. Adkins’ husband is a Chicago Fire Department dispatcher, and they have a young daughter. News video after the break. [click to continue…]
A Collier County (Fla.) family was terrorized but unharmed after a team of heavily-armed sheriff’s deputies raided their home, relying on a telephone call reporting that a child had been stabbed and the adults were being held hostage by armed criminals. In fact, the hoax call was made from Canada, and was related to the family’s teenage son and online gaming. The ordeal marks one more incident in a thankfully-infrequent series of SWATing calls that report serious incidents and provoke a large—and armed—law enforcement response. Florida investigators say this is likely what happened: the 15 year-old son was playing on-line Xbox games with one or more gamers. One of the gamers maliciously hacked into the son’s Xbox and obtained sufficient personal information to create a believable crime scenario. The gamer then used an VoIP to dial a local Florida deaf interpretation service (TRS), and pretended to be a female victim, and gave the son’s home address. The TRS operator called the sheriff’s office and began relaying the hoax incident information. Over 26 minutes, the gamer described a stabbing and six people being held hostage. The dispatcher asked questions through the TRS and assured the “victim” that help was enroute. Only after deputies entered the home did they discover the hoax. Investigators are studying the son’s Xbox device but so far have no clues about who made the call. Watch a TV news report here.
The Hamilton County (Tenn.) 911 dispatcher who answered Heinz Lange’s 911 call last month misheard a single word, creating an almost 30-minute delay in sending fire units to the man’s home, and ending with the house totally destroyed. Lange awoke to smoke inside the home, but managed to escape through an upper-floor window. He then dialed 911 and told the calltaker, “I think my house is on fire.” However, the calltaker heard the word “heart” and not “house,” and began asking Lange a series of medically-related questions. Upon determining that Lange was medically fit, the calltaker asked, “So you don’t want an ambulance anymore?” When Lange said, “No, no,” the call ended. Lange called back about 25 minutes later and reported the fire to another dispatcher, who immediately sent fire units. Comm center executive director John Stuemer quickly admitted the error, and noted that the word “fire” wasn’t mentioned by either caller after the initial exchange. He added that he’s looking at ways to eliminate a similar mistake in the future. Coincidentally, the original fire flared up overnight, completely destroying the damaged home. Read more and listen to the call here.
To increase safety for commercial air travelers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the nation’s air traffic controllers have reached a formal agreement on how to combat fatigue that includes rules minimum hours off-duty between shifts and identifying employee sleep disorders. The agreement was prompted by several recent incidents of on-duty sleeping by controllers stationed at airport control towers, usually working solo. None of the incidents resulted in a tragedy, but did raise public concerns of safety. The controllers’ work environment closely mirrors those of public safety dispatchers, including late-night work. The agreement be the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) states that controllers should have break periods to recuperate from the workload, should have at least nine hours off-duty between shifts, and the FAA will work to develop procedures for employees self-identifying sleep apnea disorders. The agreement also puts a burden on controllers to be aware of any medical conditions that could affect their night work, and to be physically and mentally rested. Download (pdf) the two groups’ agreement here.
During a 911 call that was barely one minute and seven seconds long, a Pennsylvania man confessed to a dispatcher that he had bludgeoned his wife and 7 year-old son to death. Three hours later Christopher Moyer was found dead seven miles away after being struck by a train. Moyer, 44, was calm and collected at 9:30 p.m. on June 17th when he told a Bucks County 911 calltaker, “I want to report a murder.” The dispatcher asked him how he knew this, and Moyer said, “A mother and son bludgeoned to death.” The dispatcher asked, “Who are you,” and Moyer explained, “I am the husband.” The dispatcher obtained some additional information, and asked, “OK, are you still armed?” When Moyer said, “No,” the dispatcher told him, “OK, I’ll get somebody right out for you, Chris.” The call then ended with no attempt by the dispatcher to keep him on the line, to question him about the incident further or to explore his motive. Police arrived at the house after Moyer had driven away. At about 1 a.m. police responded to a report of a person struck by a train in nearby Hatboro, and learned it was Moyer. Investigators say Moyer had put his head on the rails and waited for a train to pass. Listen to the 911 call (mp3).
Dialing 911 on the Pacific island territory of Guam works well technically, but there are several potential snags in how the calls are handled that could complicate an emergency response. A long article in the Pacific Daily News points out that there is no Phase II cellular service, so callers must know their location exactly. Fire and medical calls are immediately handled by one of the four 911 calltakers on-duty, but law enforcement calls are transferred across the room to a police calltaker. If that call is routine, the police calltaker handles it. But if it’s an emergency, the calltaker will transfer it to one of the island’s local precinct stations so the caller can speak directly to an officer. But at least one precinct has only a single telephone line—sometimes the police dispatcher must radio the station to hang up the phone so an emergency call can be transferred. The phone system at another precinct station plays a lengthy recorded message before the call is answered. Police acknowledge some inefficiencies in how telephone calls are answered, and the island’s government says they are working to improve the 911 network.
Allegheny County 911 dispatcher Shannon Basa-Sabol was the first witness Monday in the trial of a man accused of murdering three Pittsburgh (Penn.) police officers in 2009. She has been criticized for not relaying information to the radio dispatcher that there were guns in the house, and is the subject of two civil lawsuits for her handling of a 911 call. Richard Poplawski is accused of fatally shooting Officers Eric Kelly, Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo II when they entered his home in response to a phone call from his mother, who had dialed 911. During that phone call, Margaret Poplawski said her son was drunk the night before and she wanted him removed from the house. Basa-Soblo asked, “Does he have any weapons or anything?” and Margaret Poplawski said, “Yes, but they’re all legal.” Basa-Soblo then responds, “OK, but he’s not threatening you or anything?” Poplawski says, “He’s just waking up from sleep. I want him gone.” Basa-Soblo testified she then typed “No weapons” into the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) record and entered it for dispatch. She explained because she’d been trained to note “No weapons” when none were involved and no one was being threatened. Other first-day witnesses included neighbors who saw what occurred and dialed 911. Basa-Soblo was part-time at the 911 center when the incident occurred but received re-training and now works full-time. Read more about the trial here, and listen to the mother’s 911 call here.
The Volusia County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office says that a resident properly dialed 911 to ask deputies to persuade his 79 year-old father from going up into a super-heated attic to perform chores, and that a dispatcher properly declined to send deputies to the man’s house. Two hours after the son’s mid-day call, the man collapsed inside the attic and had to be rescued by firefighters who cut a hole in the roof to extricate him. The man was taken to a hospital where he recovered. Sheriff’s spokesperson Gary Davidson said it isn’t up to law enforcement to convince someone not to do something that’s not illegal. He said an exception might be if the involved person had a psychiatric problem. Read more about the incident and the sheriff’s office reaction, and listen to the 911 call here.
Whether or not the West Palm Beach (Fla.) public safety radio system works properly is open for debate, as evidenced by the large number of people on both sides who claim they are right. West Palm Beach council members are scheduled to hear both sides today during discussions to approve a $1.6 million purchase of 400 radios that would move public safety radio operations to the Palm Beach County system. The county’s Motorola system went live in 2001 and has been successfully supporting 68 agencies. Meanwhile the city and five other jurisdictions have been using a Harris OpenSky radio system since 2006 that is arguably the subject of poor coverage, glitches and unintelligible speech. A 2010 negative evaluation of the OpenSky radio system was never made public, critics point out. Now West Palm Beach is considering a move to the county’s radio network to improve operations. Read more about the debate here, and listen to a very remarkable logging tape clip of the OpenSky radio that demonstrates the quality of audio on the system.