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Dallas Police Work To Speed Up And Improve 911


Dallas Police say they’ve made major changes to the city’s 911 call center. The overhaul comes after a  woman’s frantic call for help was not dispatched as an emergency. She was later found murdered. 

Last summer, the Dallas 911 call center was about 30 call-takers short. It took an average 11 seconds for a 911 call to be answered. Since then, 45 additional call-takers have been hired and training upgraded. The call-answering time is now about two seconds.

Dallas City Council member Delia Jasso says that’s great, but she wants to make sure extreme cases, like Deanna Cook don’t happen again. She’s the woman whose call to 911 pleading for help was NOT relayed as an emergency. Family members found Cook’s body two days later.  Jasso wants more information about that particular case from the police chief.   

“In order to be proactive, we’ve got to take this as a template for the next, so that this doesn’t happen again," Jasso said. "I’m going to be asking that question of him and find out why. Why did it happen?"

Police Chief David Brown says the majority of 911 calls are made by cell phones, as was Cook’s. He says that’s a huge challenge because locations are not automatically provided – as is the case with land lines.

Council member Sandy Greyson says people need to know that.

“People I think a lot of them don’t understand that we can’t track that 911 call. We can’t find out exactly where they are, or do it quickly.”

Chief Brown instituted a new emergency call for police after the Deanna Cook incident. It streamlines a call about imminent danger.

“What this does, this is one button, one type of manipulation is required under this new system in order it make it a priority 1 – lights and sirens response rather than several steps,” Brown said. 

Chief Brown also reassigned all top management in the 911 center after the  Cook incident.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.