CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has found a Cleveland city councilman called 911 to report gunfire, but he ended up on hold.

Councilman Kevin Conwell considers what happened after that even more alarming.

We’ve reported many times that citizens called 911 and got a recording.

But, this time, it happened to someone who can do something about it.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, a woman called Councilman Conwell about gunfire at East 102 and Kempton.

“She said, ‘They’re shooting over here. They’re shooting over here. I reached out to the police, and they’re not here yet.’” Conwell told us. “I could hear gunshots in the background.”

But, when Conwell called 911 he got a recording that said, “You have reached Cleveland 911. Please do not hang up. All operators are handling other emergency calls.”

“They put me on hold and I stayed on hold, and I stayed on hold,” he said,

After two and a half minutes, the councilman hung up.

Then, he tried calling a Cleveland police commander before getting through to dispatch by dialing a non-emergency number.

Again, we’ve seen what happened to the councilman happen to people many times even in extreme cases. A woman last year stayed on hold with Cleveland 911 for 30 minutes.

Police have told us, whenever dispatchers see someone called 911 and didn’t get through or hung up, that person gets a call back to check if anyone there still needs the police.

Yet, the call record shows, in this case, the councilman didn’t get a call back until an hour and 50 minutes later.

“It took ‘two hours’ to return my phone call. That’s scary. That’s scary,” he said.

For a long time, we’ve found Cleveland police dispatch chronically short-staffed. Even now, the union says the call center has dozens of open positions.

Cleveland police say, when multiple calls come in for the same incident, it’s not unusual for callers to get put on hold. In this case, some people did get through and police responded quickly.

Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia issued the following statement.

“On September 18, 2022 the Cleveland Division of Police Communications Control Section received multiple calls for shots fired in the area of East 102nd Street and Kempton Avenue.  Zone cars were dispatched to the scene at 1:09 am,  just after the call was received and at 1:16 am, zone cars were in the area of the incident touring the area for shots fired. Multiple zone cars were unable to locate a source of gunfire or any victims. 

“It is not uncommon for call-takers to receive duplicate calls for service for one incident. During times of high call volume, some calls may be routed to hold for the next available call-taker. In this instance, there was no delay in the response to the call for service.”

Still, the councilman plans to bring this up at a hearing since he believes the system can’t go on like this.

“The system is broke. A broken system. Got to get better,” he said.

Conwell expects to talk about this at the next Council Public Safety Committee hearing. We’ll watch to see what comes out of it.