Oakland police chief: no excuse for thousands of 911 delays

The interim chief of the Oakland Police department said Tuesday there is no excuse for the under-staffing and under-funding that led to some 18,000 Oakland 911 calls going unanswered for two minutes or more last year.

“None of this is acceptable,” Interim Chief Susan Manheimer said. “We have heard the call.”
A recent Alameda County Civil Grand Jury report blasted the Oakland Police Department for failing to property handle the 200,000 emergency calls it received in 2019. At least 80,000 calls were not answered in the state standard of 15 seconds or less. And 18,000 callers waited more than two minutes on the line before talking to a dispatcher.

After the ongoing problems were highlighted by KTVU, Manheimer responded and discussed the department's challenges.

“The truth of the matter is much like the rest of OPD, we are understaffed, under-resourced and we have a level of volume here that is quite significant,” Manheimer said. “Our men and women, this does not reflect on those who work that dispatch center – our unsung heroes.”

There are roughly 60 dispatchers in Oakland, but more than two dozen positions remain unfilled. The Oakland City Council approved funding for many of those positions last year. But because it takes eight months to test and train a dispatcher, many are not yet on the job.  

The chief responded in an interview with investigative reporter Brooks Jarosz after he asked about antiquated hiring practices and if she would commit to drafting a policy to hold dispatchers accountable.
“We do indeed have standards that we hold our dispatchers to,” Manheimer said. “We have reduced our wait times and we are going on a large hiring campaign very soon.”

Oakland Police said the hiring campaign is set to roll out in August. Manheimer also explained that a universal testing system, similar to other departments, technology upgrades, and other policies are already being put into place to improve training and hiring time.
“We need to rise to that challenge and this is a no excuses moment,” she said. “We are going to do better and this is a high priority for us.”

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at brooks.jarosz@foxtv.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @BrooksKTVU