999 call handling report finds ‘significant deficiencies’

An independent report into the improper handling of 911 calls has found an allegation of sexual abuse by a child and their parent that should be “urgently investigated and not cancelled”.

The Police Department commissioned a report to examine the circumstances and responses to the cancellation of thousands of Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) incidents over a 22-month period.

In his preliminary update last November, author Derek Penman made 13 recommendations, including that gardaí develop call-recording strategies for local stations.

A final update was released yesterday, noting that overall Calltaker met established standards but had “significant deficiencies” in several incidents.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris welcomed the report and its recommendations, saying it informs them of their own missed caller opportunities.

He added that they had identified instances of “bad behavior” by Garda staff and that in the “recent past” the performance of some individuals had been “not up to date”.

Mr. Penman reviewed 83 example cases from a “serious cohort” that had the potential to lead to serious risks and 120 randomly selected incidents.

He noted that no serious harm was directly identified in the samples analyzed, but added that it was not possible to establish this in cases where the victims were not identified.

The expert found instances where callers did not demonstrate sufficient skill or took the time to assess the vulnerability of calls, particularly when there were language barriers, impairments or intoxication.

There have been instances where a service could not be provided, with the result that protection orders may not have been issued, crimes went uninvestigated and offenders escaped justice.

In one of the cases investigated, a confidential third party provided real-time information from a child that their parent was a victim of ongoing sexual abuse. It was also revealed that the child had been abused by the same perpetrator.

Gardaí were dispatched immediately, but the address was incorrect and investigators were unable to identify the child or parent.

The third party’s call had not been held open and there was no opportunity to contact them again. The incident was shut down and no further investigation was conducted.

Mr Penman said: “Notwithstanding the possibility that this was a false call, the seriousness of the allegations and the potential vulnerability of the child and parents should have ensured that this CAD incident was not abandoned but instead was directed to an urgent investigation.”

In his final report, Mr. Penman noted that there was “very limited” evidence of oversight controls, although policies and procedures were in place that should have identified unjustly canceled incidents.

He also noted that the aging CAD system and other legacy technology “suggests a chronic lack of investment,” but added that the technology cannot be considered a significant factor in call cancellations.

Mr Penman said Gardaí should complete the CAD review and not undertake any further retrospective analysis.

Instead, An Garda Síochána should focus its resources on improving current call handling arrangements.

He also recommended creating an agreed framework to facilitate independent call interception and incident investigation by the agency pending the establishment of the Policing and Community Safety Agency (PCSA).

The agency’s chairman, Bob Collins, said the 999 service is a “crucial public service” that people rely on in times of crisis.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/report-into-handling-of-999-calls-finds-substantial-shortcomings-42027972.html 999 call handling report finds ‘significant deficiencies’

Fry Electronics Team

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