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CMPD shares more insight about long emergency call times

Police also released a video made to inform viewers about how to "lessen the volume of 911 calls."

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A month after WCNC Charlotte first reported concerns about long 911 call hold times, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said they are taking more calls with fewer staffers.

In a tweet posted Monday, CMPD says it has already taken 12,000 more 911 calls this year compared with last. They said they have served those calls with "2.3% fewer call takers on staff." 

"Call center staffing challenges/shortages are an industry-wide issue that was exacerbated by the covid pandemic," the police department said in a released statement. 

"You should not call 911 if you're not happy with your order at a restaurant," Aesha Harrison, a communications supervisor, said in a video shared by CMPD. "And you definitely should not call 911 just because you are not happy with the police."

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The video details reasons to call versus not to call in order to not hold up the line and keep the staff from answering calls related to emergencies.

CMPD's tweets Monday reflect a different tune than the statement they put out regarding 911 calls about a month ago:

“We’re not aware of any widespread issues with 9-1-1 response times. Our telecommunicators work diligently to answer every call as soon as they come in. The communications team is always looking to hire to make sure staffing doesn’t dip.”

On Oct. 31, WCNC Charlotte reporter Jesse Pierre shared stories of Charlotte callers experiencing long wait times during emergencies. Some callers waited as long as 21 minutes and never got someone to pick up on the other line.

Credit: .
Viewer on hold for 911

At the time, CMPD refuted those experiences saying in a released statement 84% of calls are answered in less than a minute and 60% of calls are answered in less than 10 seconds.

Adrian Stout, one of the WCNC Charlotte viewers who experienced a long wait time during an emergency, said at the time “I would have liked to just talk to a human, just to find out like, where were you guys?" 

On Monday, Nov. 21, CMPD released the steps they are taking to remedy the staffing issue, like increasing the hiring bonus from $2,000 to $4,000, allowing employees to earn overtime, and assigning "light duty officers" to aid in call-taking and more.

Additionally, CMPD reports they have hired 32 new telecommunicators this year, and that 99% of calls are answered in less than five minutes.

However, CMPD is still 20 telecommunicators short and is still looking to fill those positions.

So when should 9-1-1 be called? Harrison said the classic adage of using it only in emergencies applies here.

"Anyone in an emergency situation, whether it's medical, fire, or any kind of law enforcement involvement is needed needs to call into 9-1-1," she said.

Additionally, listening to communications staff is just as important as getting them information.

"They're going to ask you questions such as your location, who the person is, where the person is, if there are any weapons involved -- those questions are very important to be answered so we can get the police officers out there and they can respond appropriately," Harrison said.

For non-emergency calls at the city or county level, 3-1-1 is the number to dial.

Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
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