What’s going on with metro area 911 response times? According to 9News, Denver’s 911 system is falling below national 911 standards for response times. On average, it’s taking 27 seconds longer for calls to be picked up. With the issue being covered in the media, the topic is finding its way on several social media apps as well, including Nextdoor and the r/Denver subReddit, where the 9News story was recently posted.
Are delayed 911 response times affecting criminal investigations, civil lawsuits and private investigators in Colorado? We can immediately surmise that some of the very first reactions of victims and/or witness callers involved in an incident requiring emergency services aren’t being recorded. But how else are people responding when faced being placed on hold in response to sometimes desperate 911 calls?
According to the recent responses on Reddit, some 911 callers give up. One r/Denver Redditor commented, “I had a client in our waiting room at work having a heart attack. We called 911, twice. Over 7-minute hold. I ended up driving the woman to the ER myself because we couldn’t wait. It was bonkers.”
“I’m always put on hold when I call 911, so I’ve literally stopped calling,” another responded, adding “Whatever is happening can be dealt with faster on my own…”
Sure, these are comments on social media, but concerning nonetheless. Not only for those needing help, but also for those investigating crimes or searching for justice through civil litigation. Is it possible the current 911 response issue may result in even more lawsuits? One example includes a recent hostage incident and murder-suicide in Colorado Springs.
Last month, as reported by CPR, 32-year-old Qualin Campbell’s wife Talija called 911 to report him being held hostage. He had texted her his location and photos of a man sitting next to hm in his work vehicle. He begged her to call 911 for help. The police didn’t respond to Talija’s initial call, even though Qualin and his abductor were only about a half-mile from the police department. Talija raced to the scene only to find he had already been shot by his abductor. Campbell said she decided to open the door to try to save her husband, who was bleeding, but found no pulse on his neck or wrist.
“I shouldn’t have been the one there, the first person to respond,” she said at the press conference. When Talija arrived, police were no yet on-scene. The did eventually respond to the additional 911 calls of shots fired, which was about an hour after Talija’s initial 911 call.
According to KRDO in Colorado Springs, a lawsuit in the Campbell case is imminent. The news station says precedent was already set in a case, also in Colorado, where the U.S. Supreme courts said cops have no legal obligation to respond to a hostage situation.
According to the 9News article, help is on the way. A new class of 26 dispatchers will complete training this fall. “Unfortunately training takes a long time,” Denver Director of Emergency Communications Andrew Dameron said in the story. “It takes about six months to learn how to do this job and so while we are trying to get those folks through training, unfortunately we are still struggling answering the phones.”
Wages for 911 operators increased from $20 per hour three years ago to $29 currently. Hopefully that will also attract additional candidates interested in performing this critical services so they will see it as a viable career option.