Chicago To Prioritize 911 Handling, Stop Police Responding to 70% of Calls


After years of discussion and delay, Chicago finally is ready to usher in a revolutionary change in 911 dispatch to free police officers to respond to the most serious crimes, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Gary Schenkel of the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications disclosed that Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has drafted a “general order” outlining the “call diversion” plan that will alter a dispatch policy that sends police officers to respond to 70 percent of 911 calls, compared with 30 percent in other major cities.

It won't be implemented until the public is educated and physical improvements to the 911 center floor are completed. “The effort is to put police officers on crimes — preferably crimes in progress or to prevent crimes — rather than tying them up with administrative duties,” Schenkel told aldermen budget hearings. “The intention is to shift those administrative duties as much as possible to officers on the phone who can take reports and provide a police report number for the individual calling,” Schenkel said. “That's a very delicate balancing act because, when somebody calls the police, it's not because they're happy normally. They're scared. Their thinking may or may not be real clear. So, we have to be very careful, very explicit, and we have to ensure there is public as well as aldermanic buy-in.” Asked to describe the kinds of calls that would no longer get an in-person police response, he said, “If you park your car on the street, somebody breaks in and your laptop you've left on the seat is gone, that's a perfect example.”

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