Friday, March 19, 2004

Eddie Polec, Charles McCoy Jr. & 911 dispatchers

This post over at Cosmic Iguana details the citizen in Las Vegas who was trying to alert authorities about the presence of suspected Columbus, Ohio highway sniper Charles McCoy Jr.. Apparently, "it took a dozen calls over a ten hour period, to get some action."

This reminded me of a situation that happened here in Philadelphia 10 years ago. This link will give details about the murder of 16-year old Eddie Polec and the related 911 dispatcher problems:

In the aftermath of the Polec murder, tapes of calls to Philadelphia 911 revealed that a series of callers had been warning authorities about a gang of baseball bat-wielding kids for nearly 45 minutes before Polec was attacked. Some of the 911 operators weren't familiar enough with suburban Philadelphia to recognize where the trouble was, and others simply hung up on the callers who were trying to convey the urgency of the situation. "Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute," shouted one operator to a caller who was checking to make sure he'd been heard correctly. "I have the information. You can hang up now," cutting the conversation, and Eddie Polec's chances of survival, dead.

Apparently, this kind of thing happens often. Problems arise from crank calls, switching technology to make it easier to dial 911 from a cell phone and poorly chosen, underpaid dispatchers. Problems of this nature have been documented nationally and at the state level.

How many more tragedies or near tragedies have to happen before this becomes a federal issue?

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