Thursday, February 2, 2012

Setting goals for better response times

We track a lot of performance measures, but one that the public feels most acutely is response times. The time between when someone calls 911 and help arrives may just be a few minutes, but it can feel like an eternity. We are dedicated to getting our officers to the public’s aid as quickly as possible, which is why we’re implementing new goals for response times.

We have now reduced our goal from Priority 1 calls to 7 minutes (down from 10 minutes). The new goal for priority 2 calls is now 9 minutes (down from 12 minutes). These measure from the time someone places a call to 911 to the time an officer arrives on scene.

Priority 1 calls are those that present extreme, known or potential danger to human life. These include officer-assist incidents, shootings, injury accidents, explosions, rape, robbery, hold-up alarms and calls in which the nature is not known. Priority 2 calls are those for which the potential for injuries to occur exists but has not yet happened, such as prowlers, burglaries, bomb threats and disturbances.

We wanted our new response time goals to show how important it is to us that officers arrive at emergencies as quickly as possible. We also want the goals to more accurately reflect our performance. It is incredibly rare that it takes officers 10 minutes to respond to a Priority 1 call. In December 2011, we met the 7-minute goal for Priority 1 calls 79 percent of the time. Our median response time was 7.67 minutes.

KCPD began tracking response times in 2000. A lot of things have an impact on them, such as road conditions, weather, and how many officers are in training or out sick. Generally, response times are shorter in the inner-city patrol divisions and higher in the suburban patrol divisions. This is because the suburban divisions are geographically much larger than those in the urban core, so officers in the suburbs face longer drives to get to their calls for service.

In November 2011, we changed the way we track response times. We were tracking the time from when the 911 call-taker transferred the call to the police dispatcher, but now start tracking from the earlier time of when the call is received by the 911 call-taker. (When someone calls 911 in Kansas City, Mo., they first talk to a call-taker. That call-taker gathers the information from the caller and inputs it into our computer-aided dispatching system. The dispatcher then takes that information and relays it to officers on the street by radio. The officers also see some of the information call-takers and dispatchers have input into the computer system.) We wanted to ensure we were tracking the appropriate number and were transparent with our performance in that area, so as of November 2011, we have corrected our computer system to track response times from the second someone calls 911 (this even includes any time the caller might be put on hold).

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