GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - When you call 911, every second counts. But problems with Grand Rapids' new police dispatch system are putting you at risk.
Target 8 was tipped off that glitches in the $2 million system are causing delays that are keeping police from getting to calls quickly.
The Grand Rapids Police Department says it made the switch to the same system the rest of the county uses. It's supposed to allow them to communicate more efficiently.
"We so far think it's been a very smooth transition," GRPD Commander of Support Services Capt. Dave Kiddle said.
But complaints in dozens of internal emails and documents obtained by Target 8 seem to show it has been anything but smooth. Since it was implemented in December 2012, there has been complaint after complaint about system errors, making it difficult for officers to answer calls for help.
In several cases, the system showed police and fire crews were on their way to a scene when they hadn't even been dispatched. 911 operators complained of computer screens freezing, costing precious time.
Another common complaint was vehicles closest to an emergency were not sent to the scene. In some cases, a car that was farther away was sent. In some cases, no one was sent.
For example, one medical emergency entered the system as a closed call, a first responder wrote. "Good thing I sent them [the ambulance]," the report reads in part. "They had no clue this call existed until I called them."
In another case, smoke was reported coming out of the basement at Hopcat in downtown Grand Rapids.
"What a mess," an officer wrote. "No squads sent. ...Wow."
There was a 911 call for a 43-year-old man having trouble breathing, but responders weren't able to find him because of a wrong address. That was a common complaint.
Additionally, officers complained about errors taking time away from answering calls on a busy Friday night. One officer wrote about becoming so upset because the system lost reports that the officer was brought to tears.
Target 8 took more than 100 pages of complaints to GRPD Communications Manager Karen Chadwick.
"Those issues you've brought up have all been addressed and we continue to work on them," she said.
But some of the complaints indicated officers don't see that happening.
"I'm not the only one having this problem, but given the fact that more than half the officers have stopped writing up fault reports due to no feedback or results, I'll step up," one of the reports reads in part.
But GRPD said it is working to fix the problems.
"On a daily basis. That may be a miscommunication, misperception. Just because they put in a trouble report doesn't mean they will get immediate feedback," Kiddle said.
Kiddle agreed that officers not getting calls would be a safety concern, but said there are procedures in place to prevent that from happening.
GRPD said that though there are problems, it doesn't believe any are critical and feels confident the bugs will be worked out by next year.
And GRPD said some of the problems that were written up are actually successes, like sending cars that are farther away to a scene. The new system uses an algorithm to determine which car can get there the fastest, not which car is the closest.
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