Dignitaries in Denver can now expect faster response times than ordinary citizens to their 911 calls.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s office complained in October about having to wait for more than 35 minutes for a dispatcher to send a patrol unit to respond to a burglary report.
The dispatcher in the incident contends that the case was a cold report and that police were busy with more urgent issues. She also believes that mayor’s office should have had to wait like everyone else for police resources to become available. She has submitted four letters of support from Denver police officers.
The dispatcher has since been fired, and under the new policy, that went into effect at the end of December, Denver police dispatchers are required to treat dignitaries like the governor and mayor different than other citizens in Colorado.
If an ordinary citizen calls and asks for an ETA, the dispatcher will simply say that they are sorry for the slow response, and promise that they will get there as soon as possible. Not so for dignitaries.
A retiring dispatcher, when asked about the new policy, acknowledged that if there is a threat to the city, or if someone is in danger, then the dispatcher should prioritize sending a car. However, she noted that, giving dignitaries above and beyond what a normal taxpayer gets is wrong.
This complicates public relations matters for the Denver police office that has been under fire for not responding quickly enough to 911 calls. The most recent case that stirred public outrage was the case of a woman who was fatally shot nearly 15 minutes into a 911 call. The woman lived less than a mile away from the police station, and told the dispatcher that her husband was armed and hallucinating. The investigation into this case is ongoing.
Due to the overuse of 911 calls many police stations across the United States have been adopting prioritizing systems to get help to the most urgent cases. However reports of failures and delays still plague the systems.
Prioritizing dignitaries over ordinary citizens will not help perceptions, and it certainly looks like the police are treating the public servants as more valuable than the public they serve.