Madison Ald. Paul Skidmore, asked for details about a recent disturbing incident regarding the Dane County 911 Center, offers a disquieting response: "I'm sorry to say this, but which one?"
Skidmore, who serves on the center's oversight board, has been "hearing from police officers that this happens or that happens." The most troubling such incident, grist for local rumor mills, involved Madison police officers who responded to a "domestic" last Christmas Day on Madison's west side.
Skidmore says an officer he spoke to "was very, very upset."
What happened, according to the responding officers' reports, obtained by Isthmus, is that an "intoxicated, very volatile and violent" David Gilmore, 53, had barricaded himself in a bedroom and was refusing to come out. Two officers positioned themselves on either side of the door; one officer called the 911 Center for backup.
The officer had his radio set to the wrong channel; the call-taker told him to call back on the correct one. Just then the door burst open and Gilmore exited, brandishing a "hunting-style knife" and making defiant taunts. The officers were on the verge of using deadly force when the man threw down his knife, was Tasered and eventually subdued.
Skidmore thinks, given the situation ("It wasn't a noise complaint"), that the dispatcher should have responded, "Copy that, help's on the way."
But Rich McVicar, the 911 Center's operations manager, and interim director Kathy Krusiek say that's pretty much what happened. The center investigated the incident after Madison police raised a concern. It found that the call had been handled appropriately.
"Copied, switch to [Channel] 3 and I'll let her [the dispatcher] know," the call-taker says on the recording, which was provided to Isthmus. Backup was dispatched, but Krusiek (who this week passed up her chance to apply for the permanent director post) says the call-taker wanted to be sure the officer was on the proper channel for follow-up communications.
Skidmore, for his part, thinks "there's still an issue here. This is not the only time this sort of thing has come up."
Last week, Dane County released the second part of a consultant's report (PDF) on the 911 Center. It gave the center mainly high marks but acknowledged room for improvement on dispatch protocols.