Department Responds to League’s Supposed Concern Over 911 Calls

July 19, 2001

Los Angeles: On Wednesday, July 18, 2001, the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) issued a news release regarding their concern that between January 1 and May 30, 2001, ". . . 55,208 of the 576,395 calls received for emergency services were dropped due to inappropriate calls and inadequate staffing." Notwithstanding the fact that the figures presented by the League are erroneous, the Department acknowledges the fact that a number of calls placed to the 9-1-1 emergency system are abandoned or "dropped". However, if the concern is truly for the community, and it should be, then it is irresponsible and inflammatory to spew statistics without putting these numbers in perspective, as the League has failed to do.
We know from experience and documented surveys that a number of calls are placed to the 9-1-1 system, and people, for whatever reason, hang up before the operator answers. These count as abandoned calls. Many children play on the 9-1-1 system, by calling and then hanging up, causing the operators to have to take the time to call back the origin of the calls. Not only does this take away from an operator’s time that can be spent responding to other emergency calls, but also those hang up calls count as abandoned calls. Frequently, persons call 9-1-1 and when they hear the recording, they hang up. These calls count as abandoned calls. We also know, based on meetings with several community members, that there are people who call 9-1-1 because it’s an easy number to remember. It is documented that 70 to 80 percent of the calls placed to 9-1-1 are non-emergency calls. For this reason, the Department established a new non-emergency number (877-ASK-LAPD) to provide an attractive alternative to calling 9-1-1 for non-emergency business.
While attributing attrition, among Police Service Representatives (PSRs), to "high call loads" and poor working conditions, namely windowless basement dispatch centers", the League has conveniently neglected to mention their basis or source for such a claim. It should be noted that between 1993 and 1999, emergency [9-1-1] calls decreased from 667,617 to 548,639. It should also be noted that the issue of dispatcher shortages is a decade long problem. Nationwide, the attrition rate for dispatchers is 50 percent. The attrition rate for LAPD dispatchers for the years 1994 to 2000 is 50 percent; consistent with the nationwide average. This is a clear indication that this is a very difficult profession and unfortunately, there are those who fail to recognize the inherent difficulties of this profession.
Instead, they diminish the importance of the profession by flippantly citing morale as a reason for attrition. Additionally, gone unnoticed by the League is the fact that the Department and the City have been involved in an aggressive campaign to open two new emergency dispatch centers with state of the art technology, aesthetics and other amenities that will not only allow us the capability to better handle our call load, but also ameliorate the work environment for our dispatchers. The Department believes that these enhancements will also serve as an attraction for others. In fact, many of the dispatchers at July 16, 2001 dispatch center dedication praised the coming on line of the new dispatch centers, stating that they were looking forward to working at the new centers.
Today’s actions by the League is yet another part of their continuing personal attacks on the Department. While the League has chosen to sit on the sidelines and "lob" attacks on the Department, disseminating misleading and/or partial truths, they have offered no credible recommendations to solutions of their criticisms. Interestingly enough, as of today, there are 74 PSR vacancies within the Department; NOT 85 as alleged by the League. One of the well-documented reason for the high attrition rate among LAPD dispatchers is the fact that our personnel are of a high caliber and subsequently, leave due to promotional opportunities.
It is bad enough that the League president has gone nationwide talking about the Department’s "demoralized sworn force". Now, the League has adopted the position that the Department’s civilian work force is wrought with morale problems. Interestingly enough, again, this statement is made with no supporting basis, documentation or credible surveys.
It is abundantly clear that the League President has chosen to wage a personal attack on the Department because of disciplinary issues with her husband. The timing between the recent wave of attacks and the aforementioned issue is at best, suspect.
The Department remains steadfast in its commitment to providing the best possible service to the people of the Los Angeles community, and in its mission to reducing the fear and incidence in crime.
This press release was prepared by Lieutenant Horace Frank, Media Relations Section, 213-485-3586.