May report: 911 today, more changes coming

The meeting was called to order at 6:15, 27 people attending.  

In 2019, 2-PAC heard a presentation on upgraded procedures being used at the MECC — Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center (911).   The events that marked 2020, understaffing, pandemic, protests, riots, and more, suggested that the system had to be changed again, which is exactly how our Emergency Services reacted to vastly increased calls for services.  

Joni Hodne, 911/MECC Assistant Director (Interim), confirmed the systems have been  upgraded a lot — and there are more changes coming.  

911 no longer uses the systems described in 2019.   The communication systems  used at that time  had restrictions that hampered the ability of operators to “fluidly” handle police calls.   Improvements are happening on several levels now, and will be further tuned in coming months.  

Briefly:  dispatchers had been using a scripted list of questions which didn’t yield the kinds of information that response teams wanted.    Instead, dispatchers are now trained to ask callers for information that will better guide responders to the location where they’re needed, and with information that offers the most safety for everyone involved.

Last summer’s high incidence of requests for help taught MECC where the greatest  communication problems and bottlenecks were.  Responses during times of high incidence of calls for help were not  working well during times of high call volume. The Central office needed to greatly improve communications with the dispatch centers outside the city.  

Last summer, the various centers (suburban, county and other response centers) were not able to communicate directly with each other.   When MECC phone lines were overloaded, new calls rolled over to a response team in a surrounding agency, but that  response team couldn’t freely communicate with the geographically closest responding agency.   

While the several command centers are still not all able to communicate on the same computer system (and are probably still several years away from that), the agencies identified the problems of overloaded phone lines rolling to the other agencies.   They developed a workaround that involved a dedicated radio channel for centers to communicate emergency information to other centers.    They also set up phone lines that were available  only to other agencies which allowed calls to flow from agency to agency more quickly than they could in the past.

Developing this relationship with other dispatch centers is helping today.   It will help in the future for both the city of Minneapolis and  for the surrounding agencies when they are the ones who need help to manage a crisis.

An important part of the new changes is new public information programs teaching people when to call 911 for police, fire and emergency services and when to use alternate resources such as 311 (612-673-3000 outside the city) both on the phone and through the city website https://www.minneapolismn.gov/government/government-data/request-public-data/  and https://www.minneapolismn.gov/report-an-issue/   and tip lines (612-692-tips).

The agencies are still working on creating a new pilot program for crisis intervention.  This program is in the very early stages of development.   Ms Hodne has offered to return to 2-PAC in a couple of months to give us a further update.   [The invitation is already extended — EQ]

In answer to citizens who’ve called but not seen a response, that does not always mean there was no response.  Unless you’ve seen officers come to the area, you may not notice that they have come, handled the situation and left for the next call.   You probably won’t know what the outcome of the situation is.  

Calls are prioritized, and calls reporting people in likely danger or property damage happening, will always get highest priority.   It’s always people’s safety and property protection at the top of the list.   “Noisy party” is disturbing the peace, but no one is actually in danger unless or until the noise turns into heated arguments and threats of aggression; that makes it time for a second call to 911. 

Generally, responses will be handled  more quickly if injury or property is at risk.  You can always wait a reasonable amount of time based on the type of service needed and call again if the disturbance is still occurring or escalating.

The operator can’t give out information to anyone who didn’t make the original call, so if you want to find out what happened or what the officers reported, don’t ask your neighbor or spouse to call for you.  Operators are not allowed to release that information to a different caller.  Certain information will still be private.   [Our CPSs are willing to look an incident up and release public information to you as time allows.   It’s very helpful if you have your Case Number to share with the CPS — EQ]

As mentioned above, Ms Hodne will be coming back with an update on 911 systems and services after the new procedures have had time to jell a bit.    I’m hoping that we’ll reach that time this coming fall. 


QQ:  Do you work with COPE?

Hodne:  Minneapolis is just one law agency that works with COPE  [FFI: see the opening paragraph here:  https://www.healthyhennepin.org/stories/cope   COPE stands for Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies — EQ]

QQ: another attender offered this important announcement:    Violence Interrupter Contract. The Council has approved contract extensions with the Corcoran and Central Area Neighborhood Development Organizations to June 30, 2021, for continued violence interruption services under the MinneapolUS Strategic Outreach Initiative. More details are at https://lims.minneapolismn.gov/File/2021-00278  

EQ:  Thank you very much!  That is a very interesting document!


QQ: We’ve called 311 to report unusual activity in a public park and gotten no response.   We ended up calling 911.

EQ: I contacted Chief Ohotto.  If you have general questions or inquiries, contact: 
parkpolice@minneapolisparks.org    or   612-230-6550 (Park Police Office)
or  612-230-6400 (MPRB Customer Service)IMPORTANT:  All calls for service should go to 911You can request a supervisor’s attention, but that will probably get you a slower response, because Park Police are not on duty 24/7. 

Park Police cover all the parks in Minneapolis, but not residential areas.  When they are not on duty (late nights), MPD is supposed to cover the parks. [EQ:  To complicate matters, MPRB voted to sever ties with MPD last June.   I do not know how that has played out for calls for service in the city areas adjacent to parks property.]

COURTWATCH:   Nnamdi Okoronkwo  City Attorney’s Office, reported that Joshua Poplawski remains in HCJ, waiting for his Rule of 20 hearing.  

STATE OF THE PRECINCT
In the two weeks ending May 9, the Second Precinct reported 32 violent crimes including 13 robberies, 19 aggravated assaults and 5 domestic aggravated assaults.   This is 16.75% of the city-wide total.   We also counted 22 burglaries, 107 larcenies, 36 theft from motor vehicles (including catalytic converters) and 28 auto-thefts.  

Our Year-to-date numbers are 173 violent crimes, which is 11.2% of the city-wide total.
Hot spots in the Second remain Marcy-Holmes, and along University Avenue in both directions.   15th Ave SE and Lowry were also busy. 

Emilie Quast, board member
MPD Second Precinct Advisory Council
Minneapolis MN 55418
e-quas@tc.umn.edu

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