MLAs surprised by the practice
There have been a number of recent instances where individuals who called local police stations to make a report of what was considered to be a non-emergency crime were told to hang up and dial 911.
The somewhat unusual situation, it was revealed in the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee Thursday, was due largely to a communications issue between police and the 911 Emergency Centre that has never quite been resolved.
“It’s been a common issue….that we’ve been discussing to try and get over,” Police Commissioner David Baines said.
“It is important that people also understand that this does not only happen in instances where people call the [police] station,” North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said. “I walked into the Bodden Town station personally to make a complaint and the nice lady said ‘sorry, you can’t make a complaint here.’ She said ‘you need to call 911.’
“I then called the cellphone number of the inspector in charge and said ‘where are you?’ He said ‘I’m here in the office.’”
Mr. Baines agreed with Mr. Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean, who raised the issue in finance committee, that members of the general public might not understand why an officer sitting in a police station would seemingly refuse to help them straightaway.
The police commissioner said, at the moment, the police are using a stop-gap measure to record all crimes reported in their records management system. In order to get those calls logged into the system, they must first be put into the 911 computer-aided dispatch.
Any emergency calls – threats to life, crimes in progress, buildings on fire – should go to 911 anyway. However, there are some criminal complaints that are considered non-emergency calls that are often reported to the local police stations.
The problem arises, Mr. Baines said, in that those police stations – with the exception of George Town – do not have computer-aided dispatch technology and therefore cannot record a non-emergency crime report into the system directly. There are two such terminals at George Town Police Station where calls can be logged, but for whatever reason, government never put up the $15,000 needed for similar technology at West Bay, Bodden Town and Cayman Brac stations.
So a police officer would either have to call 911 themselves and “translate” the information from the person making the report or simply ask the person to make the report direct to 911 themselves.
The issue would no longer exist, Mr. Baines said, if computer-aided dispatch terminals were installed at all of the police stations.
Ministry of Home Affairs chief officer Eric Bush said funding would be found to install the computer-aided dispatch terminals at the other stations.
Emergency center director Brent Finster said the processing of emergency calls in all cases would be handled by 911; the station reporting protocols for non-emergency crime were a separate issue.