Milwaukee alders demand answers from MPD, MFD for slow response times for non-emergency calls

NOW: Milwaukee alders demand answers from MPD, MFD for slow response times for non-emergency calls

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee Police and Fire Department leaders told city leaders obstacles like staffing shortages and rising crime are factors leading to long response times for non-emergency calls.

The issue was discussed during a Public Safety and Health Committee meeting Friday, Sept. 10.

Non-emergency calls do not include calls made to 911.

Alders said they have heard from constituents and have experienced themselves the extensive wait time for an answer to a non-emergency call.

"They say they're waiting over 30 minutes for non-emergency," Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic said. "And at which point they hang up and call emergency."

"I called and I was on hold for 42 minutes," Ald. Scott Spiker said.

Data on average wait times or other information is not available because it's not tracked by any department, though there are efforts to change that. Still, the lack of information is a concern.

"I'm very disturbed by that," said Ald. Dimitrijevic, the committee chair. "That's our lifeline, those are the people that are speaking up and watching their neighborhood."

One obstacle is the staff shortage for dispatch workers which affects both emergency and non-emergency calls. Milwaukee Police Department officials said the stress and low pay of the work pushes workers and potential candidates to the suburbs.

"We're losing people to other departments," MPD Inspector Nichol Waldner told alders. "[Wauwatosa] just posted a hiring, their starting pay for someone with no experience is $48,000 a year, $48,609. "Ours is $43,000."

There is also more demand for emergency resources due to rising crime.

"We've had about a two percent increase for calls for service between 2019 and 2020 and we're seeing a similar type of increase this year," MPD Chief of Staff Nick DeSiato told CBS 58.

Both MPD and MFD said they are working to address the issue as they wait for more resources.

"We're looking at best practices, we work with a consultant, we work collaboratively and we try to act creatively as well," DeSatio said.

There is hope a new 911 dispatch center will help the issue, but it is an ongoing process that will take time.

"It's very difficult to ask people who are frustrated right now to just hang on longer, but that's where we're at right now," MFD Chief Aaron Lipski said.

Alders also highlighted the number of officers who have left MPD and how that might affect the issue.

"We can give the emergency communications center as many dispatchers as they like," Ald. Spiker said. "It's not going to get around the problem if we have a diminishing police force, we aren't going to have anybody to dispatch."

The committee plans on scheduling meetings in the future to further discuss the topic and progress made in addressing problems brought up in Friday's meeting.

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