News 5 investigation reveals slow 911 response times by Cleveland police

Posted at 4:17 PM, May 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-04 17:33:13-04

How often are residents with lower priority 911 calls, like theft, left waiting?

On Your Side Investigators analyzed more than 400,000 incidents reported to Cleveland’s 911 call-takers between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2016, from the time call-takers input the call to the time officers reported their arrival on scene.

On Your Side Investigators interviewed car dealership owner Trina Kuznik as part of our in-depth investigation into Cleveland police's 911 response times. Just weeks later, she was murdered at her family’s business. You can read her story here.

We found you can’t count on a quick response. Thousands of 911 callers waited hours for help from police.

Our data shows it took Cleveland police at least six hours to respond to 2,306 calls, including a property crime reported in 2016 with a response time of 25 hours.

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

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.

What about when seconds count?

We found it takes Cleveland police an average of 17 minutes to respond to priority 1 and priority 2 calls. 

However, the department’s average response time varied widely depending on the type of crime reported by the 911 caller.

For example, it took Cleveland police an average of 8 minutes to respond to 911 calls about “shots fired.” 

Watch On Your Side Investigator Sarah Buduson's full report Thursday on News 5 at 11 p.m.

“Felonious assault” calls averaged 10 minutes, “kidnapping/abduction” calls averaged 12 minutes, domestic violence calls averaged 13 minutes, and robbery calls averaged 14 minutes. 

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

Callers reporting assaults, sex offenses and missing persons waited more than twice as long, on average, for police to arrive at their locations. 

On Your Side Investigators also found it took Cleveland police at least 19 minutes to respond to approximately 30 percent of priority 1 and priority 2 calls. 

The police chief responds

On Your Side Investigators sat down for an interview with Calvin Williams, Cleveland’s Chief of Police, to address Cleveland police’s response times.

“I think we’re doing a good job, but there’s always room for improvement,” said Williams.

With the way Cleveland police calculate 911 responses times, they do appear faster.

Cleveland Police starts the clock when dispatchers tell police where to go – not when you call 911.

Using only that data, it takes Cleveland Police an average of seven and a half minutes to respond to emergencies – not 17.

“If you call 911, I believe police are going to respond quickly,” he said.

But how can Williams be so sure?

Our investigative team found thousands of flaws in the city’s 911 data no one could truly explain.

We wanted to determine the total number of 911 calls officers never answered.

However, approximately one-third of the data provided to us by Daniel Williams, the city's director of media relations, is missing critical details.

For example, we found 127,445 incidents missing officers’ arrival times.

We also found 82,359 incidents missing the time dispatchers assigned the calls.

“I don't know any business that would be content running itself with a lack of data like that,” said Jim Buerrmann, president of the Police Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to improving policing in the United States.

What types of crimes occur in Cleveland? Click here for details. 

“They should have an answer for people as to why they don’t show up,” Buerrmann said. “To not do that begins a process that decays the public’s trust and confidence in the police and it is very problematic for a department’s relationship with the community that they’re paid to protect.”

On Your Side Investigators asked Williams if the city tracks how often officers fail to respond to 911 calls.

Williams said, “If we get a call for service, we show up for the call for service.”

He also said, “I talk to people every day” and said he does not hear complaints about officers’ failing to respond.

What are your experiences with Cleveland police response times? Tell us here