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Sic Semper Tyrannis

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Zimmermann 911 Call

I wanted to comment on this last week, but I didn't get the chance.

Confusion still surrounds the question of whether help should have been sent. While 911 officials said that the dispatcher essentially heard nothing to indicate an emergency, police are saying that there was evidence of an emergency on this call that should have prompted her to dispatch officers.

First, let me say this-a mistake was made. 911 hang-ups get call backs, period. I think a number of people were under the impression that a call back and help might have saved Brittany Zimmermann's life. The odds are very much against that. The dispatch center would have had to have called her back and kept the communication to her phone open a certain amount of time before they could have traced it. Even then, the trace would not have given an address but a general area. Any police response would have almost certainly been too late.

Where this error did create a problem was in the investigation. The sooner the police arrive on a scene like this, the better their chances are to catch the perpetrator. Still, the Madison police department learned of Brittany's murder in a reasonably short period of time, short enough that leads and evidence were still pretty good. While the Dane County 911 center made a significant error, to me this smacks of the Madison Police Department trying to shift part of the heat they are receiving to someone else.

And as a side note, 911 is a very good reason to keep a land line phone hooked up in your house, even if you've gone completely cellular. Any land line hooked up to the network is required to allow emergency calls to 911, even if you do not have local or long distance service, or if you've been disconnected. The dispatch center will be able to dispatch help to your location much more quickly and accurately in the case of a hang up call via your land line than your cell phone.