Washington, D.C.’s troubled 911 emergency communications center will be moved out of the police department and put under a new civilian agency headed by a man who ran similar systems in New York and Philadelphia, the Washington Post reports. The agency, which will be known as the Unified Communication Center, will be run by Howard Baker, 57, who said, “I love impossible tasks, I love the challenge.”
The new agency, which will need approval from the City Council, may be established by the fall of 2004. Washington’s police and fire chiefs were “the happiest people in the city” when the appointment became official yesterday, said an aide to Mayor Anthony Williams.
Currently, 911 and non-emergency 311 go to separate operators for fire/medical or police calls. That system has often been blamed for confusion and delays. Baker’s mission will be to create a unified system that replaces narrowly trained call takers and police officers with civilians who are trained to work with the wide range of calls that come in.
Baker said Washington was what drew him, not the salary, which, at $140,000, is just $638 more than he made in Philadelphia. “This is a big challenge,” he said. “But it is also the nation’s capital.”