Monday, June 22, 2009

Slow roll?

I received the following email Saturday night:

“I work at Ameritas at 5900 O and we happened to hear a collision at Cotner
and O St (approx 11 am on Friday). We were not witnesses, but saw the
accident from our building immediately after the collision.

I immediately notified our switchboard operator to contact 911 (she was
the second citizen to report the accident).

I was concerned and disappointed that it took more than 10 minutes before
the first police response and there was NO fire or ambulance response. Of
course, it was some distance from where we were so I don't know if there
were injuries, but it did appear that at least one person was pinned in
their vehicle.

I do not know the policy for response, but since the intersection is a
busy one, considering the time of day and the fact there were multiple
cars involved, I'm curious as to why this did not get more (and faster)
attention by fire/police. And, the fact that two fire stations (Cotner
and A and Cotner and VIne are so close).”

I hate to let people down. I checked the dispatch record, and to me it looks like our response time was within acceptable norms. So here is the response I sent:

“Fire apparatus and ambulances are dispatched to traffic crashes only when injury is involved. In this crash, fortunately, no one was injured. Usually there are several first-hand reports from the scene (it’s common to get cell phone calls from the people actually involved), but when there is doubt, it has been my experience that the 911 Center always errs on the side of caution, by dispatching a full medical response. I assume that the information was clearly reported from the scene that no one was injured, and that is why the Fire Department was not dispatched.

As to the police response, the officer who was assigned arrived in 13 minutes. I do not know where she responded from, but I note that about half the patrol force was engaged in other incidents at the time of this crash. She works on the Southeast Team, which encompasses the entire City to the south and east of 27th and O Streets. We do not respond to traffic crashes with lights and sirens, in order to avoid creating a greater risk by our emergency response than the risk that exists at the crash scene.

I think a 13 minute response time to a non-injury traffic crash is pretty good in any city of a quarter million. Keep in mind that your police force is the smallest per capita in the State. To give you some perspective, if we were the same size per capita as Omaha, Lincoln would have 440 officers rather than our 317. If we were the same size per capita as Grand Island, we would have 423 officers--105 more than the 317 Lincoln police officers authorized in our budget. Among all the cities in Nebraska and the surrounding states, we rank as the 180th smallest of 194—right in between Thornton, CO and Marion, IA.

Thanks for the feedback. We will try to do the best we can with the resources the citizens of Lincoln provide. I am sorry we failed to live up to your expectations.”


Dave said...

Chief, didn't this accident also occur just a few minutes after the serious accident at 70th and P?

I know the response to that accident was very quick, both by LPD and LFR, and sounded pretty serious from the chatter I was hearing on the scanner.

Perhaps people have the impression that Police should be there in just seconds and not minutes, and that their call requires a more important response than any other call.

Clearly I can see a precedent started here; an immediate response to a non-injury accident, and let the domestic in progress go, because that non-injury is far more important. Sorry folks, but it doesn't work that way.

Anonymous said...

The emailer should pay attention to the work they have and not meddle in something which is none of the business of Ameritus.
Scanner Listener

Herb said...


I commend you for your tact and clarity in responding. My understanding of the original email to you reads:

"I don't know what happened, I don't know if anyone was hurt, and..oh yeah, I was so concerned I called someone else to call 911, but you didn't do your job fast enough. I realize that if I was really concerned or able to help, I could have walked to the accident scene in less than 13 minutes and rendered aid myself, but you didn't do your job fast enough. I'm absolutely sure the officer could have been there faster because three years ago on a Tuesday I had to call an officer when my neighbor's dog pooped in the yard and they responded within three minutes that time....etc., etc., ad nauseum..."

Steve said...

I agree, thirteen minutes is not a long time, especially under the circumstances. However, it probably seemed like an eternity to some of the people involved. Waiting for anything makes time pass more slowly.

I don't know how often it happens, but I'm always worried that the people involved will get run over because they don't have enough sense to get back away from the traffic that is inevitably going to continue to try and get around them, rubbernecking as they do. Or, that there will be additional wrecks because people are not expecting the bottleneck caused by the original accident.

An early police presence wouldn't necessarily help with the bottleneck problem, in fact, it often makes it worse. However, flashing lights might alert other drivers to the problem sooner, and officers could get those involved to move out of harms way. I suppose it's a tough call whether to respond with lights and sirens, or not. You probably have some data on that.

my response said...

Dear Ma'am or Sir,

Pay more taxes and we'll get more cops!

Thank you,

ARRRRG!!!! said...

Nobody came when I crashed.

Anonymous said...

I think Herb pretty much echoed my sentiments.

Tom Casady said...


I'm a little more charitable. I think this person just doesn't understand (or didn't think about) the risk posed by police cars zipping code 3 all over the city to around 8,000 non-injury crashes annually. He's just watching out a window, and thinking it's been a long time. Although I took the opportunity to point out the very small size of LPD in comparison to others, the fact of the matter is that even with many more police officers, a 10-15 minute response time to a non-emergency would not be uncommon.

Fire departments are different. Their volume of dispatches is much, much smaller, and I suspect (although I'm not certain) that when they are dispatched, it's much more likely to be an emergency that justifies the use of lights and sirens.

Anonymous said...

I think we are spoiled here in Lincoln and expect our Police and FDR people to do the impossible.

I drove big rigs over the road for twenty years. One time in Houston I had a daytime theft from my truck that amounted to about $2,000.00 but no injuries. I called 9/11 and got a recording advising me that UNLESS this was a life threatening event to call the Harris County Sheriff's Department. It took two days to actually talk to a live person after this happened. After getting a real person on the phone they faxed me the appropriate forms to fill out for insurance purposes.

I am just thankful that I do not live in a hellhole like Houston, Detroit, Chicago, LA, New Orleans etc.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

Hey concerned citizen why dont you worry about my dental claim thats taking forever to process than worrying why the police are taking so long to an accident.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I wonder. I hear LFR get sent to a person with a nose bleed, "not feeling well" or the occasional "back pain" & wonder if we really need lights & sirens to make it there...

Anonymous said...

Consider that anyone who can find the Police Chief's e-mail address and send you an e-mail should also be able to find the LPD site and this blog. This means that they can also find the daily accident list, the daily incident list, and so forth.

Anonymous said...

I was just involved in an accident in Omaha last week during rush hour. 180th and Pacific. No injuries. 3 cars. Police Response?...1h 45m.
The 911 operator actually called us back after an hour to be sure we hadn't left the scene.
Have to wonder how efficient it is for 911 dispatchers to be calling outbound to be sure the call is still valid...

Anonymous said...

Steve raises a great point, and one of my pet peeves.

Cheif - any chance you could start having your officers educate drivers that, in the case of a non-injury, minor damage accident, it is okay to move your vehicles over to the side of the road, or even around the corner - to clear traffic.

There is no need to preserve the POI like a murder scene chalk drawing when you get bumped at a traffic light.

Steer and Clear!!!

If your officers would gently educate drivers that they can move their cars - maybe in 5 years, it will start to catch on.

Any idea the number of (a) injuries or (b) secondary accidents are caused by drivers who insist on leaving their cars glued to the POI - and then get hit because people are trying to drive around them?

(I'll end with my favorite rant line...) If this could save just one life - wouldn't it be worth it?

Anonymous said...


Unrelated, but since the news media will always take the wrong tack on these incidents, and miss reading between the lines:

A9-058867 - my DD Detector went from a lazy, wavering growl to a loud, steady lock-on tone when I read the incident summary for that burglary. The safe was the tip-off; if you regularly had enough cash on-hand to strong-box it, why would you live on that block? I suppose the fact that a lot of different people coming and going at all hours don't raise as many eyebrows around some subdivisions as in others. I'm not slamming low-income areas (and lived in one myself for quite a few years; you live where your wallet allows).

Anonymous said...

Less $$$ for LPS, where much money is being wasted, and more $$$ for LPD.

Thank you for doing a terrific job, LPD, with what little resources you have.

Anonymous said...

Some people just don't get it. Go to a small town fire department where they are all volunteers and have other jobs or even the county police departments and see how their response times are.... to be able to have 13 minutes in a response time, you should consider yourself very lucky...
Small town chick

Trevor Brass said...

I wonder how many officers of the LPD are "inactive" at any given time of day. Is there a buffer of sorts that requires that x officers be inactive on patrol to respond to high-priority calls?

Anonymous said...

Not feeling the love--the guy had a concern about response time and emailed the Chief. That's much better than spending time b****ing about the cops not doing anything and having no idea what the rest of the story was. He had a concern and deserved an explanation. I'm sure he appreciated it.

Tom Casady said...


I'm with you, I am glad he asked. I thought it was polite and reasonable. Maybe he will spread my reply around, so more people understand why we don't fly low at warp speed to traffic crashes, and why we don't have 105 more officers.

Taylor said...

I called the non emergency number because my teammates bike was stole from the woods park legion baseball field. Right after I got off the phone two officers where there. That was a really good response time. And they got the bike back