Like most Edmontonians, I believed that our 911 police system, was pro-active, dependable and transparent. I found out first hand that this is certainly not the case in the summer 2013. After a year of investigating , sharing information with the public through media outlets, advocating for change, and working with EPS, I am thrilled to know that Edmontonians will be safer due to improvements being made to the 911 police system. We deserve the top pro-active policing service and need to ensure this is being met.
Story from the Edmonton Sun, June 24, 2014
by Pamela Roth
If Cheryl Schneider had known it would take 68 minutes for police to respond to a 911 call she placed last summer, she would have made a few different decisions.
Schneider was hosting an exercise class in the basement of the North Millbourne Community League at 6 a.m. when two "drunk and spun out" men walked in uninvited. The men were escorted back upstairs by the lone man in the class, but as the doors locked behind them, they became angry and tried to break down the door to get back inside. The commotion lasted for more than 40 minutes.
Schneider didn't know that when she called police for help, her call was labelled a priority four, which is given about a 45 minute target time for a response.
"We had come up with several plans because we had so much time to think about it -- but I said no don't do anything the police are on their way," said Schneider. "I was told we were a priority call and the police were on their way. It just leaves the impression with the caller you are getting immediate help."
Since that frightening ordeal, Schneider has made it a personal campaign to have changes made to the 911 response department. After a year of meetings, mediation and a sit down discussion with the Deputy Police Chief Danielle Campbell, Schneider said her concerns are finally being addressed.
While city police Insp. Erik Johnson said that plans to improve the system have been well under way for the last two years, the force "shares Schneider's enthusiasm for the changes coming to Police Communications Branch in the near future."
According to Schneider, the 911 evaluator will now provide an estimated time of arrival (ETA) to the caller. The ETA will be entered into the system so police can follow up with a return phone call if the ETA needs to be updated.
The language of the evaluator will also change so the word "priority" is phased out. This, said Schneider, will allow the caller to manage their expectation of response times.
The 2013 annual policing plan fourth-quarter report shows that police aim to arrive at a location in less than seven minutes 80% of the time for priority one calls. For 2013, however, emergency response times were 69.7% -- the lowest annual levels since 2008. Downtown is the only division to consistently meet its response time targets on an annual basis at 84.3% while southwest division has consistently had the most challenge with a performance of 58.6% in 2013.
Police Chief Rod Knecht has acknowledged the growing response times on several occasions and noted last month the number of 911 calls are rising. In order to handle the ballooning workload, Knecht said police are hiring 30 more communications staff to answer calls. Plans are also in the works to expand current space and update IT systems.
"My biggest concern is knowing that response times in Edmonton are becoming slower and slower for lots of reasons, but that's reality," said Schneider, adding she's delighted about the changes and plans police have to improve response times.
"What I'm really quite excited about is the fact that they'll phone back when the ETA is not going to be available. That's going to be huge for any caller in Edmonton to know, 'OK, this is what I can somewhat expect.'"