Spokane Police Response Depends on Severity, Staffing

By Paige Browning

Its normal 911 protocol for police agencies to not send an officer for every call, but the number of those instances has grown in Spokane. 
 
Tuned in to the Spokane Police scanner, you will hear officers assigned to crime scenes or for medical aid.  Detective Lydia Taylor explains, "The dispatcher will continually monitor the calls that we’re getting, and it could be anything from a shooting to a barking dog call.” 

Public Information Officer, Detective Lydia Taylor says sometimes a call is intentionally not responded to by officers. And that barking dog is an example of no-response, or dropped, calls. Detective Taylor says another would be someone complaining about their neighbor’s fence placement, or about a suspicious person walking nearby, but not disturbing anything.
 
Graphic from 2012 Spokane Police Ombudsman report.But the number of dropped calls in 2012 was 8,700. About 870 more than the year prior.
 
Dtc. Taylor: “It could be crime check is sending more stuff to us, it could be a reduction in funding in Spokane mental health, and it could be the staffing levels that we have right now.”

Detective Taylor says if they had more police officers the department would respond to more calls. But, that’s not justification enough for some citizens.
 
Burns: “In a couple of instances we’ve had complaints come through our office, where people come in and say ‘I called the police regarding this situation, and I waited for a number of minutes or hours, and nobody ever showed up’.”

Graphic from 2012 Spokane Police Ombudsman report.

Tim Burns is the Spokane Police Ombudsman. He’s concerned citizens aren’t always told what will happen after their call.
 
Burns: “One of my fears is that if I call the police, with the understanding that they’re going to be responding and contacting me, I will not know otherwise unless somebody takes the time to tell me that there may not be a contact made by an officer.”

He actually raised this concern to the police department in his 2012 report. Taylor says there’s really no notification protocol. However, there is protocol for how a call is dropped.

Dtc. Taylor: “What happens is it goes to the dispatcher that’s working the area. They end up putting the no response on it, and they sent it to their supervisor, and the radio supervisor will look at it and that’s when they clear it with a no response.”

Taylor assures that in the case of an emergency, if Spokane police are already busy, the Spokane County Sheriff’s office steps in.
 
Copyright 2013 Spokane Public Radio
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