I-TEAM: Hundreds of 911 calls go unanswered in Cleveland, what the city is doing to fix it

I-Team

CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-TEAM has found a citizen couldn’t get through to a Cleveland dispatcher for an ambulance after a child got shot, and it happened on the same day when more than 600 calls to the Cleveland 911 center went unanswered.

This comes to light after the I-TEAM recently revealed thousands of other emergency calls in Cleveland went unanswered.

And now Cleveland Police have outlined the first steps to address the problem.

The City just released to the I-TEAM police body camera video and 911 calls from an incident on the east side that left an 8-year-old girl shot and wounded while riding in a car.

A 9-1-1 call made by a citizen there shows she said, “A little girl got shot.” A dispatcher a moment later says, “Stay on the line. I’ll transfer your call to EMS.”

But when the transfer is made, the caller gets a recording saying, “You have reached 911…all operators are handling other emergencies.”

The I-TEAM found on July 4th alone, 642 emergency calls to Cleveland did not get answered. Citizens hung up. Then they either called back later, or they decided to do without police, firefighters, or an ambulance.

Police also have dispatchers try to call back to anyone who dials 911 and then hangs up.

What happened this month follows what the I-TEAM found in recent months. Between March and mid-June nearly 13,000 emergency calls in Cleveland already had gone unanswered.

The police union has blamed a big part of this on a new computer system requiring dispatchers to ask a lot more questions. Multiple sources also blame short staffing. At times, not enough people in the 911 center to answer calls.

So we asked what’s being done about it?

Cleveland Police spokesperson Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia said in a statement, “The Cleveland Division of Police Communications Control Section is now utilizing new technology, Pro QA, in order to ensure that all calls to police radio receive the same level of service. The new format can result in longer call times…”

On the Fourth of July, Public Safety suspended the use of Pro QA due to the increase in calls for fireworks disturbances. Currently, Pro QA is being implemented in phases. The Communications Control Section is using the technology for high priority calls and  other calls for service will be added once the staff becomes more proficient, to ensure calls will not be delayed.

Police also say more call takers will now be working during peak times so that more calls can be handled.

As for the shooting that sent the child to the hospital, that remains under investigation.

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