It’s a little unnerving to think that you might call 911 and be told the cops aren’t coming. But Chicago is joining a large number of metropolitan police forces who simply can’t respond to all calls. So, like other large police departments, they simply won’t.
According to the Sun Times and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, the department currently responds to about 70% of all calls, a rate they just can’t keep up with. This when other major cities respond to about 30%. In an effort to lighten the load, Chicago’s 911 procedures are undergoing changes.
Currently, the changes are directed at how officers are dispatched and where they are sent. Rather than dispatchers telling everyone where to go and sergeants following their directions, sergeants will now be able to overrule OEMC’s decisions if they feel like the call isn’t one worth responding to at the time, or if they believe someone else should be handling it.
In the past, OEMC would send officers from one beat to another if they needed a responding patrol car, even in non-emergency situations, in order to keep all calls handled and none “pending” on their screen. They call this the “clean screen” approach and the department has decided it’s not the most effective way of doing things.
Instead, officers on a beat should only be responding to calls on their beat, staying within the communities they are assigned to build a relationship with integrity among the community and the officers there.
Soon, McCarthy says, more sweeping changes will be coming. For instance, they plan on determining which calls simply won’t warrant a response at all.
“We don’t need to respond to calls for service because, ‘My children are fighting over the remote control.’ We don’t need to respond to calls for service because, ‘My son won’t eat his dinner.’ Unfortunately, believe it or not, those are calls we actually respond to today.”
Officials say it will take some time and effort in order to convince Chicagoans that they don’t need to use 911 for nonemergency situations. They say it will require a “major public relations campaign” to get everyone on board with the changes.
Cops will still respond when crimes are taking place in real-time, but will be more likely to put other calls for service and those where only a report needs to be taken, on a back burner.
If you are suspected of committing a crime, don’t think this means the police won’t have time for you. They always have time to make an arrest. And when you’re arrested, you’ll need someone on your side.