After 911 miscues sent Philly cops to wrong location, City Council plans to hold hearings

The review comes after the botched response to a 911 call about the first victim in July’s mass shooting in Kingsessing.

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A close-up of a police car.

File photo: A Police vehicle near the scene of a shooting in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Two members of Philadelphia City Council want to hold hearings to look into the city’s 911 emergency dispatch system. The calls come after an incident this July when officers were dispatched to the wrong location in response to a shooting incident. The victim in that case was eventually identified as the first person shot in a mass shooting in the city’s Kingsessing neighborhood that happened days later.

A 911 dispatcher sent police to an address three miles away from where Joseph Wamah had been killed. Nearly two days later, the suspected killer returned to the scene and allegedly killed four more residents, including a 15-year-old boy, and wounded two more in the City’s worst mass shooting in 23 years.

Councilmembers who are calling for the meeting said the 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 Wamah’s death before the shooter allegedly returned to the same location and murdered four more residents.

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Police claim 95% of 911 calls are answered in under 10 seconds according to Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who is also calling for the hearing.

She pointed to other examples of problems with the city’s 911 program, including a staffer who couldn’t get a 911 operator to answer.

“A couple of weeks ago a member of my staff team woke up to find bullet holes in her wall, she called 911, but she eventually hung up after waiting a few minutes for someone to pick up the phone.”

Gauthier said the hearing needs to be coupled with improvements to the dispatch system to help renew residents’ confidence in law enforcement’s efforts to reduce violent crime.

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