PHILADELPHIA – Today, Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) introduced a resolution, co-introduced by Chairman of the Committee Public Safety Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. (4th District), authorizing the Committee on Public Safety to hold a hearing on solutions to ongoing challenges facing the 911 Unified Call Center and the Philadelphia Police Department’s investigation into the police response to a 911 call about the first victim in this July’s mass shooting in Kingsessing. The resolution is cosponsored by Councilmembers Mike Driscoll (6th District), Mark Squilla (1st District), Katherine Gilmore-Richardson (At-Large), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Sharon Vaughn (At-Large), and Anthony Phillips (9th District).
“Philadelphians need to know that when they call 911, they will receive help every single time”, Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) said. “When the City fails to successfully respond to an emergency, neighbors lose faith in government’s ability to keep them safe – making it harder for us to combat gun violence and eroding the progress we’ve made to rebuild the essential bond between the community and police. I look forward to working with my Council colleagues and the Police Department to remedy the challenges facing 911 and hearing the results of the internal investigation into the botched response to a 911 call about the first victim in this summer’s mass shooting in Kingsessing.”
On March 11th, 2020 City Council’s Committee on Public Safety and Labor and Civil Service held a hearing on the 911 Unified Call Center focused on solutions to challenges in recruiting and retaining 911 dispatchers. This national trend may threaten the City of Philadelphia’s response time in emergencies.
Three and a half years after this hearing, the City now faces a situation where many 911 dispatchers feel overworked, exhausted, and unappreciated. At the same time, constituents continued to inform City Council about long wait and response times when they call 911. Some residents even report hanging up after waiting minutes for someone to answer their 911 call.
On July 2nd, 2023, 911 dispatch erroneously deployed police officers to an address three miles away from where Mr. Joseph Wamah Jr. had been killed. 44 hours later, Mr. Wamah’s suspected killer returned to the scene and allegedly killed four residents, including a 15-year-old boy, and wounded two more in the City’s worst mass shooting in 23 years. This botched police response further eroded community trust in the City’s emergency apparatus and cost the Police Department 44 hours in which it could have investigated Mr. Wamah’s death before the shooter allegedly returned to the same location and murdered four more residents.
Philadelphians need to know that when they call 911 during an emergency, they will receive help. If residents do not trust 911, they will not call the city during an emergency, making it even harder to clamp down on gun violence. When tragic accidents like the one on July 2nd do occur, the City must take steps to assure the public that the mistake will not be repeated.
To rebuild confidence in Philadelphia’s 911 system, the public must be made aware of the results of PPD’s investigation into the botched response on July 2nd and any steps the department has taken to prevent another incident like it from happening again.
City Council also has a responsibility to continue to investigate the challenges facing the 911 Unified Call Center and support the Police Department as it takes action to remedy them.
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