Tuesday, December 2, 2008

We're still waiting

This just gets worse and worse, doesn't it? I don't even know what to say:
The notorious 911 call from Brittany Zimmermann's cell phone the day she died carried the sounds of a woman's screams and a struggle, according to long-sealed search warrants obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal.
The warrants were only unsealed because of time - officials had asked judges to continue resealing them, but the most recent expiration date was allowed to pass unchallenged. Maybe that was the easiest way for them to release this information. Passively.

Whatever the case, we can all now see one of the likely main reasons why officials didn't want this stuff out in public: it makes them look really, really bad.

Still, many questions remain unanswered. Why, if there was audible screaming and struggling on the call, did the trained dispatcher claim not to hear anything (as according to her and to former 911 director Joe Norwick)? And why didn't she follow up on the call, as procedure dictated? 48 minutes then passed between the call being made and police being dispatched to the apartment, presumably only because Zimmermann's fiance had by that point also made a 911 call.

I recognize that it's unlikely much could have been done to actually save Brittany's life. But it is very much worth our while to question what might have been done differently so that her killer could have been caught and brought to justice long ago. There's always a better chance of that if police are dispatched immediately. But they weren't, and the perpetrator remains at large.

And the 911 center? Still having issues, even after all of this. Although they were much quicker to release information on what went wrong afterward, their handling of the calls leading up to the beating death of a man in Lake View Park in November was also very poor. Negligent, even.

Yet Kathleen Falk still insists that "problems at the 911 Center have been overblown. The facility, she maintains, has been well managed and adequately staffed."

I don't place all of the blame for these problems on Falk's management, or on any one person for that matter. But her continued dismissals of, in my mind, perfectly valid concerns over 911 center performance do nothing to bolster her position. They make her seem out of touch and unconcerned with the very real problems faced by the center and the community it serves. It certainly won't solve everything, but having an executive willing to really confront these issues head-on would definitely be helpful.

Upgrading 911 center software and equipment is important, but so is making sure there are adequate staffing levels (and training) so that no one is forced into heavy overtime. Hiring an experienced, accountable center director would be a good start, too.

All of this is not to say that I'm endorsing Nancy Mistele's run for Falk's office. Frankly, she strikes me as an even worse choice for the job. But that won't keep me from calling for accountability from Falk and everyone else involved.


George H. said...

Emily: I have to point out this information was not "released." Ed Treleven, a courts reporter, diligently checks these things consistently, a thankless task that usually results in zilch. I have played cat and mouse with court and district attorney officials on this topic, and it isn't fun. The irony is that, after the fact, the officials in this case are saying oh,well, should probably have unsealed them anyway. CYA.

Emily said...

George - That was the jist that I got from the article, but maybe I didn't make that clear enough in this post?

Anyway, I'm very thankful to the court reporters who stick with these things. I can't imagine it's very fun to comb through a lot of otherwise tedious material, but certainly it's a very worthwhile community service, and I appreciate it a great deal.

I really don't understand what the hell is going on with the officials in this case. How many different stories have we gotten now?

M Big Mistake said...

The first thing I thought when I heard the story yesterday was "Emily's going to blog about this"

Emily said...

Have I grown so predictable? :)

jen x said...

Perhaps predictable in a good way. I was so heartsick when I read the article -- angry, frustrated, a little scared at how badly 911 can fail. But I felt pretty confident you would blog about it, which is comforting in its own way.

The Lost Albatross