Brian Uhler, ICU Technologies, Police Chief (Retired)
Public safety and law enforcement are more complex than ever. Change pressures like budget, staffing, social unrest, and public expectations are all adding to the complexity of effective emergency response management. Police leaders in 2021, recognizing the need to take a fresh look at everything and lead through innovation, are looking for the best solutions for response management to help simplify and manage the complexities in policing.
Consider a hypothetical department and you are the police chief. How would you answer these questions?
Would you like to…
Improve your response times to 911 calls?
Have officers arrive even before being dispatched more often?
Give responders more pre-arrival information?
Expect your responders match their response to the actual situation?
Give your field personnel every de-escalation tool available?
Improve capacity for alternate mental health or homeless responders
Improve agency response for violent crime?
Make a favorable impact, even though the agency is short staffed?
These aren’t trick questions. Unequivocally, police leaders answer “yes” to each of these. They follow up with asking, “How do we achieve all of these?” And the answer is simply Live911.
Live911’s core concept, in fact, relies on its simplicity. Officers are able to hear nearby 911 calls in real time. A location “pin-drop” on a map interface gives the responders an accurate location for the caller. The pin even moves with caller if the caller is on a cell phone and moving. And if needed, geofencing allows officers to screen out 911 calls that are too far away.
With the location and actual real time audio, officers can start their response before being dispatched. Further, by hearing previously unavailable nuance, such as tone of voice and the underlying story, police responders can match their response to the actual situation instead of using the “assume the worst” mentality.
Imagine a situation where arriving officers see a man rapidly pull his right hand from his pocket and point a cell phone at the officers as if to film them. In this simulated research scenario involving over 300 officers, 28% decided to shoot. With pre-arrival information saying “the subject appeared to be talking on a cell phone”—only 6% of the officers shot1. Live911 gives responding officers the opportunity to receive more unfiltered pre-arrival information. With this, they are equipped to respond with more precision and care.
In 2021, many jurisdictions are formulating plans to provide alternate mental health or homeless responders instead of police. This is challenging because the decision to send police, fire, EMS or alternate responders needs to be made within seconds of a 911 call. Seasoned 911 staff know this is a difficult especially when the caller is perhaps intoxicated or just doesn’t have information.
Some law enforcement agencies are considering an awkward process where call-takers are required to ask a specific series of questions. One negative consequence of this process is that time-to-dispatch will increase as these new complexities are introduced. Live911 actually reduces response time and supports alternate response.
Here’s how Live911 delivers those desired outcomes:
Call takers can do their job as they do it now—quickly assess, classify, make the CAD entry, which leads to resources being dispatched.
Call takers then, keep the caller on the phone and ask more questions related to mental health or homeless response options.
Police units, hearing the call taker and the caller, can adjust their response or coordinate with alternate responders.
Alternate responders could also monitor nearby 911 calls and begin their response or offer to respond.
Watch commanders could “tune in” to 911 calls and help direct resources.
Instead of saddling a call-taker with the decision responsibility, Live911 gives agencies the opportunity to have the entire team participate in the resource deployment decision.
Don’t leave your call takers hanging out there alone in making critically important dispatching decisions.
A De-escalation Tool
Live911 is also being received by many as a de-escalation tool. Far too often, after-the-fact reviews of officer involved shooting lead to the criticism that mental health problems were mentioned on the 911 call, but officers didn’t de-escalate.
With access to all available details provided in real-time, officers have the opportunity to tone-down or coordinate their response when warranted. And again, with access to the caller’s tone and languaging, the responding officers can more appropriately react because there are multiple ways to interpret how something is said. For example, consider all the ways the ways “get out” could be expressed. Intonation can bring about an altogether different meaning. Yelled angrily versus a soft chuckle, these two words can mean entirely different things. Live911 makes this kind of situational awareness possible.
De-escalation is one of the many critical benefits Live911 has to offer. It provides the kind of affordable public safety technology innovation police departments across the country have been looking for.
By deploying within seconds of the 911 call, officers may be able to save lives or capture dangerous offenders.
Add to this, the extra few seconds of lead time could help responders coordinate their tactics and be safer when they arrive at these dangerous situations.
Community members who fear their police force is spread too thin can be given some assurance that something is being done to help.
The most important reason to choose Live911 is that it actually saves lives.
In the United States, we have seen a terrible increase in violent crime. It has been painful to see stressed and understaffed law enforcement agencies struggle, but worse, the communities they serve live in fear. Live911 is among the most cutting-edge, innovative technology solutions jurisdictions can deploy to relieve some of the fear and deliver real measurable improvements.
If you are looking for a smart, affordable, innovative solution that will save lives and improve your law enforcement response significantly, I urge you to look closely at Live911. Better yet, Live911 funding may be available through your jurisdiction’s American Rescue Plan dollars. Learn more about Live911 here. To get started with a free consultation, contact ICU Technologies.
1. Taylor PL. Dispatch Priming and the Police Decision to Use Deadly Force. Police Quarterly. 2020;23(3):311-332. doi:1177/1098611119896653