DALLAS — In the last month, Dallas police Chief David Brown has moved about 50 senior officers to the city's 911 call center. He said it's not an overhaul, but he is reviewing — in detail — each layer of the center to try to improve operations.
"We're looking at almost an 'all hands on deck' approach," Brown said. "I wouldn't call it an overhaul, because some things we have to keep in place that are working well. Eighty-eight percent of the calls are answered within 10 seconds, and that's not poor... but it could be improved. It could be better, and we're looking to be above 90 percent, which is the standard nationally."
The chief said 25 of his newly-promoted senior corporals will spend the next 18 months in the emergency call center.
"I think it grows their leadership and their perspective," Brown said.
He spent 18 months working there when he was a sergeant in the 1990s. "It broadened my perspective of how police services are delivered to this city, and gave me a keen awareness of how important the conversations on the phone with the clerk are, and those narratives on the call sheets the officers get," Brown said.
After 18 months, the senior corporals will be re-assigned to regular duty, the chief added.
Adding personnel to the 911 center is not a sign that staffing is inadequate, Brown stressed. "We're looking at different types of scheduling — like swing shifts, or how many days off we're giving on the weekend," he said. "It might be too much. I think just saying 'staffing' is knee-jerk and too broad. We're really getting into the weeds in how we can improve the 911 center."
Brown said it will be a balancing act to cover the corporals' old duties, but he said he was looking to find efficiencies in all parts of the department to make up for the staffing moves he is making.
On July 4, a home burned to the ground as witnesses said they tried to call 911 repeatedly but got no answer.
In August, Deanna Cook was murdered as she tried to get help from 911, but the operator was not able to tell officers they needed to urgently respond to Cook's home.
And in September, an operator at a regional call center tried to transfer a call to the Dallas 911 center, but he was met with two minutes and 34 seconds of rings and recorded messages.
"I'm looking at all of our processes in the 911 center to see where we can really increase our response to citizens when they call," Brown said. "We've always said staffing was adequate; adequate is not good enough for Dallas, so we're looking to improve."
The chief said he aims to improve on the city's service anywhere possible. "We think Dallas deserves better service than we saw on the fire call and the Deanna Cook call," he said.