DALLAS - The city of Dallas and T-Mobile were slow to react to major issues with 911.
Mayor Mike Rawlings said so in an interview on Inside Texas Politics.
"I blame me as the mayor," he said. "The buck's got to stop here. Obviously I didn't kick enough rear throughout that organization."
For weeks, WFAA has reported on a 911 system failure that was causing hundreds of calls to be placed on hold, sometimes for more than 30 minutes.
The Dallas Police Department feared if the problem wasn’t fixed someone would die.
They blamed T-Mobile saying a glitch was causing major backlogs by creating what looked like hundreds of hangup calls.
WFAA asked the mayor if he had talked to T-Mobile’s CEO and pushed for more to be done.
“You did ask and when we finally got to that level from the city management we got them down here,” Rawlings said.
But not before the death of 6-month-old Brandon Alex, whose babysitter couldn’t get through to 911 on Saturday night when more than 400 calls were holding.
“Why does it take me losing my son to get to the bottom of this?” asked Bridget Alex, Brandon’s mother.
The mayor told WFAA part of the problem was that when a T-Mobile customer called 911 it registered as two calls spiraling into a major backlog if they hung up.
He said changes have been made to fix that problem.
But the bigger issue is an outdated 911 system that can’t keep up with new technology.
The city has known about this issue for years.
”I asked the past city manager to give us a plan and he didn’t," Rawlings said. "I am asking a new city manager to do.”
On top of that, the mayor says they didn't have enough 911 operators answering calls. So they're paying police officers overtime to come in and answer calls this weekend, adding an additional 12 call takers.
The city says it’s progress, but for Brandon Alex’s family, it's too little too late.
WFAA has also learned the city of Dallas will get $16.4 million this year from fees cellphone users pay.
Eight-million dollars will go to the Dallas Police Department. Three-million dollars goes to Dallas Fire-Rescue and $5.4 million is earmarked for communications and information services.
One-hundred percent of the money is supposed to go specifically for 911 to support infrastructure, hardware and software technical support but the city couldn't immediately tell us exactly what the money was spent on.
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