Cleveland councilman calls for change after On Your Side investigation into police response times

News 5 uncovered calls can go unanswered for hours
Posted at 7:29 PM, May 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-05 19:29:11-04

Just hours after an exclusive On Your Side investigation uncovered 911 calls for help can go unanswered for hours by Cleveland police, a local councilman is calling for changes.

On Your Side Investigators reviewed more than 400,000 incidents over the last three years and found it took police 17 minutes, on average, to respond to emergency calls. 

"The system is sick," Cleveland City Councilman Mike Polensek said. "The dispatch system is sick. It's ill. So you have to know what's wrong with it to make it we can serve our citizens better."

For lower priority calls, 911 callers waited even longer for help. 

We found more than 2,300 incidents where it took officers at least six hours to arrive on scene.

INTERACTIVE: Data reveals slow response time from Cleveland police

On average, if a call is not considered a critical emergency, we found it took Cleveland police 1 hour and 29 minutes to respond. 

"What is wrong with the city? What have we spent all this money for -- to have a system that's dysfunctional, that doesn't work, that's not accountable?" Polensek asked. 

On Your Side Investigators also found a huge flaw in the city's data -- more than 100,000 911 calls were missing critical details, including the times officers were dispatched and the times officers arrived. City officials could not explain the missing data. 

"What does that say to the citizens?," Polensek said. "What does that say to business people, anyone who wants to invest in our neighborhoods or stay in our neighborhoods, that after spending all this money, they have a system that still is not functioning properly? It's pretty tragic, and it's pretty sad."

What types of incidents/crimes could make up priority calls in Cleveland? Click here for the priority breakdown.

Polensek said he still believes council and city officials can solve the city's emergency response times. 

"What can we do, working together, to fix it?" Polensek asked. "We have some great people in the Division of Police. Great men and women that come to work every day...but they need help. They need systems that work."

He also believes now is the time to take action. 

"I'm calling upon the safety director, I'm calling upon the chief and I'm calling upon the mayor, who's the main guy," Polensek said. "The buck stops there to figure out what to be done to fix this system."

During an interview with Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams as part of our investigation, Williams said he is satisfied with the city's response times and believes officers respond to calls quickly. 

The city only keeps track of the time it takes from when a dispatcher assigns an officer, to when an officer arrives at the scene. By those standards, it takes officers seven and a half minutes to respond to emergency calls. 

We want to know about your experience with Cleveland police response times. How long did you wait for help? Tell us by using our feedback form.