• 27°

911 call properly handled, Moffett says

[2/3/04]Dispatchers properly handled an emergency call from a South Street business owner who criticized response time to that neighborhood, Vicksburg Police Chief Tommy Moffett reported to city elected officials Monday.

During a city board meeting, Moffett told the Mayor and Aldermen that he reviewed the audio recording from the 911 call questioned by Rodney Dillamar. Moffett said that a police officer was dispatched 28 seconds after the call was received and that officers were at South and First North streets where a fight had been reported within four minutes.

“The dispatchers did exactly what they are supposed to do,” Moffett said of dispatchers.

Dillamar, who was also at Monday’s meeting, had appeared last month and said dispatchers asked too many questions before sending police. A previous complaint by Dillamar led to “personnel action” being taken by the 911 commission and a clarification of policies last year after an operator reportedly asked if Dillamar was willing to press charges against someone before officers were dispatched.

“When Mr. Dillamar came before us a year ago there was a problem, and we took disciplinary action,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens, who is also a member of the 911 commission.

But Dillamar said dispatchers were still not being responsive to 911 calls from the neighborhood, and that led to a heated exchange between Dillamar and Leyens.

“It’s really about time you stopped making a spectacle out of people,” Dillamar said to Leyens.

“You just don’t want the truth to be heard,” Leyens responded.

“I think if the community did a records request on that tape they would find a completely different story. Calling 911 and lecturing a dispatcher and then hanging up is not the solution,” he said.

Leyens suggested playing the tape on the city’s cable channel, but City Attorney Nancy Thomas said that 911 audio recordings are not public records. Under a new Mississippi law, tapes of calls to 911 can only be obtained by a court order or subpoena.

Dillamar had called 911 on Dec. 31 from a pay phone at a nearby laundry to report two men fighting outside his convenience store, South Street Shopette, at 1318 South St. He said he made two calls to 911 before police arrived, but it was not clear how the first call ended.

Since his last visit to the city board, Dillamar said he has seen an increased police presence in the neighborhood.

“We’re not going to make everybody happy, but we have to go about doing the job,” Moffett said.

After the meeting, Leyens said he did get emotional and can get aggressive, but said Dillamar’s comments were politically motivated as the city heads into another election year.

Dillamar ran for the office of North Ward aldermen in 2001, but lost in the Democratic primary election to Gertrude Young. Municipal elections are in 2005.

In another political link, Charles Selmon, District 3 supervisor, president of the Warren County Board of Supervisors and also a member of the 911 governing board, admonished dispatch center staff not to write or speak about their jobs without permission.

After Dillamar’s complaints, dispatchers had written a letter to the editor explaining their procedures.

The Dispatch Center was created by local governments after a 1988 countywide vote to authorize phone bill surcharges to pay for the service. With those fees and supplements from city and county taxes, the center now handles all calls for public services ranging from missing pets to industrial disasters.