D.C. Chief Lanier responds after tipster calls confused dispatcher
The District's D.C. Police Alert text messaging program pushes out bulletins about crimes like robbery and burglary, and includes a description of the attacker. The messages usually end with a caveat, encouraging residents not to take action themselves and to call 911 with the "event number" from the message instead.
That's exactly what a Northwest Washington resident did on Tuesday night after an alert came out about a shooting in Adams Morgan.
But the resident was less than pleased with the response from the 911 dispatcher -- who had no idea what the D.C. Police Alert program was. His wife's e-mailed complaint prompted a response from Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier herself.
Here's the alert:
Shooting: @ 2104 hrs 2200 block of Champlain St NW LOF B/M, wearing a black jacket, baseball cap and armed with a handgun. L/S in the 1700 block of Kalorama Rd NW DO NOT TAKE ACTION CALL 911 W/EVENT #I20100144407
Sent by DC Police Alert to e-mail, pagers, cell phones....powered by Cooper Notification RSAN.
And here's a recap of what happened, in the words of the wife of the Northwest resident who detailed her experience on an e-mail discussion group for the Second Police District.
Last night, my husband called 911 to report that he saw someone who fit this description and the dispatcher with whom he was speaking had no idea what he was talking about when he referenced the event number. And when I say the dispatcher had no idea, I mean my husband had to explain what the DC Police Alert email is and what the instructions say to do. He was transferred to a supervisor who was familiar with the DC Police Alert email and was very helpful.
The issue here is that residents can not quickly get information to 911 re:these police alerts if the person on the other end of the line has never even heard of a DC Police Alert email/text message. Is there some specific terminology that should be used to make sure that the call is handled by someone who knows the system?
Police Lanier, who has touted the program and other cutting-edge technology as helpful crime-fighting tools, weighed in personally, responding:
I will ask the Director of [Office of Unified Communications] to reply to this; however I know her employees have all been trained. Thanks to u and your husband for trying to help us keep the community safe.
We'll try to follow the outcome of this conversation, and we'll report on what we hear.
-- Theola Labbé-DeBose
March 25, 2010; 12:44 PM ET
Categories: Reader Questions , Technology , The District , Theola Labbé-DeBose
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