News Details

Public Safety Response to a Recent 911 Call

Public Safety Response to a Recent 911 Call

Protecting the safety and well-being of the public are vital services provided by the City. Public safety staff including our dispatchers, police officers and firefighters are on the front line every day serving our community with pride, dedication and focus. At the same time, we take community concerns raised about a recent 911 call very seriously. 

The details you are about to read about the public safety call are complex and involve medical details about an individual. The City’s approach to sharing public information is always to provide as much detail as possible, while balancing the rights of individual citizens and City employees. 

The statement below was provided to the Palo Alto Weekly on September 4, 2019 about a June 3rd 911 call that identified details about changes in City practice that have been implemented since the call took place.

The public safety call initially triggered fire personnel to “stage in place” meaning requiring fire crews responding to wait for police personnel to assess the situation before fire crews provided emergency medical services. The City’s staging practice is an unfortunate byproduct of today’s public safety environment where police and fire encounter unpredictable and potentially dangerous situations. The City is adjusting its practice to more effectively ensure the approach addresses its goals, and this review is continuing. Since June, the City has provided additional training for staff, and revised the City’s staging practice and other protocols to improve our public safety response. 

The City sympathizes with the individuals involved and their family, recognizing the difficulty of the circumstances involved. We nonetheless want our community to have full confidence that our public safety departments remain committed to providing the highest level of professional services and demonstrate this each and every day.

 CITY STATEMENT PROVIDED TO PALO ALTO WEEKLY
ON SEPTEMBER 4, 2019 

Protecting the safety and well-being of the public are at the core of the vital services provided by the City of Palo Alto.  Each year, the Palo Alto Police Department (Police) responds to over 60,000 calls for service and the Palo Alto Fire Department (Fire) responds to over 8,900 calls for service. 

The City’s response to a 911 call received on June 3, 2019, has raised questions from the community regarding the handling of medical emergencies where behavioral issues may also need to be evaluated. Stated in general terms to respect the privacy of individuals involved, concerns raised include the interaction between the 911 caller and the emergency call dispatcher, response by fire and police personnel, and fire being directed to stage nearby until police confirmed no threat at the scene. Based on review, the City determined that the handling of this call justified modifications to department policies and practices, and additional staff training. Specific details include:

  • Additional training has been provided to the emergency call dispatch unit. 
  • The City has clarified its policy and trained personnel to ensure that the Police and Fire Departments are dispatched to emergency events with the same priority response.

 The City has reinforced its policy and trained personnel to only require staging by the Fire Department when there is clear indication of the risk of harm to City personnel. For incidents where emergency dispatch knows or reasonably suspects that violence has occurred, or the potential exists, the call will be dispatched with instructions to both the Police and Fire Departments to “proceed with caution.” 

  • Under the City’s policy, when staging by the Fire Department occurs, the responding police officer is required to quickly evaluate if medical attention is needed and request medical support as soon as it is safe to do so. The Police Department has revised its policy to reinforce this current requirement.

The City has a longstanding practice of dispatching both the Police and Fire Departments in situations involving individuals in crisis. In fact, 100% of the City’s police officers are trained in crisis intervention to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations.  This enables fire personnel to focus their attention on the emergency medical needs of patients.  The policy improvements and training described above reinforce public safety as our highest priority while ensuring that individuals receive immediate medical care once the situation is assessed by responding police officers.

We deeply sympathize with the individuals involved and their family, recognizing the difficulty of the circumstances involved. We understand the concerns raised with the handling of this call and would like to express our appreciation for bringing these issues to our attention.

 

Last Updated: September 23, 2019