The relationship between Madison police and Dane County's 9-1-1 Center appears to be on shaky ground after two complaint calls about a fatal beating at a park brought no response Monday night. Madison Chief of Police Noble Wray says officers should have been dispatched to Lake Edge Park when those calls came in. Instead, police were not dispatched until Mark Johnson's body was found nearly an hour and a half later.
Alderman Paul Skidmore says this could impact the city's contract with the county for 9-1-1 services. "There are a number of communities in the county that have their own dispatch centers," notes Skidmore. "One option is that we (the city) have our own center, Is that a great idea? Probabley not. But we have to weigh what's in the best interest of the city and its residents.
A meeting is scheduled tonight before a Dane County committee on a 911 audit, which stems from the Brittany Zimmerman murder earler this year, in which officers were also not dispacthed to a call. Skidmore expects they'll be peppered with new questions on this latest concern.
A spokesperson for Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk says Falk believes the way the 911 center handled calls regarding the incident at Lake Edge Park was unacceptable. The comment Wednesday was the first public word from Falk's office since WIBA obtained two calls Tuesday placed to the Madison Police Department's non-emergency number Monday night. Calls to that number are handled by the 911 center.
The same neighbor of the park called twice about increasing noise at the park. Police were not dispatched, which is against policy. Police were later called to the scene for a report of an unresponsive man — victim Mark Johnson. The 37 year old Johnson died after being beaten by another man in a fight. He was homeless.
An internal review on how the calls were handled will be released Friday. The spokesperson for Falk says the county executive plans to write a series of directives to the center. The directives will say that when in doubt about when to send police, send police. Falk's office says the incident Monday night also highlights the need for improved dispatch software for the center. Falk has included money for that system in her 2009 budget proposal.