I-TEAM: Exposing the gap in handling your 911 calls

CLEVELAND -- The FOX 8 I-TEAM has found a startling shortage in the number of people handling your 911 calls in the Cleveland dispatch center, and yet, nearly two years ago, the city raised your taxes promising to hire more people and fill gaps.

Records shows the number of call-takers to answer the phones short-staffed by more than a third. And, records show the number of dispatchers to get police to you down by ten percent.

We’ve reported the shortage is so chronic, union leaders say call-takers and dispatchers often get forced to work overtime so that Cleveland has enough people to handle 911 calls.

Periodically, we’ve found 911 callers put on hold. Some just last week.

One of them, John Prather. He told the I-TEAM, "Taxes keep going up, and where's the money going? It should be going to hire more people to help us when we're in trouble."

In 2016, voters approved a tax increase for Cleveland and city leaders promised it would lead to better city services overall including more police, ambulance crews and dispatchers.

It took weeks for City Hall to send us the numbers showing the staff shortages in the dispatch room. Then, we spent days asking why more people haven’t been hired since the tax increase?

City Hall finally said the police department would respond. But, a police spokesperson sent us an email telling us there would be no comment. The city did say, in its initial response to our questions, it has plans to fill the open dispatcher positions, but not until late next month.

The city also says it has a new class planned for hiring and training call-takers, but that is not scheduled until December.

John Prather considers every day of staff shortages in the 911 center dangerous. He said, "You know, there's no reason to be put on hold for 911 calls, period."

The I-TEAM plans to keep an eye on this in the weeks and months ahead.

More on 911 call delays here.

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