Anchorage police took 48 minutes to reach Godfrey home

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Anchorage police have disclosed that it took 48 minutes to find the home of former Public Safety Commissioner Glenn Godfrey the night Godfrey was fatally shot.

Anchorage Police Chief Walt Monegan said Thursday the delay was caused by a problem with the department's 911 emergency system.

Monegan said the Godfreys' address is one of about 5,000 that does not appear in the department's 911 emergency system. Monegan said when a wounded Patti Godfrey called for help Aug. 4, she gave her address, but the police computer system said the address didn't exist.

Dispatchers assumed the shocked, injured woman was making a mistake, a common occurrence, Monegan said. So the system searched for a similar, nearby address. Those findings got police to the neighborhood within seven minutes. Then they began knocking on doors.

It took the help of an off-duty officer who lives in Eagle River, heard the sirens, turned on his scanner and called in. He knew the Godfreys' neighbors and helped locate the house.

But it took 40 minutes longer than it should have, Monegan said.

In this case, Monegan said he believes the late arrival did not change the outcome. Glenn Godfrey and Karen Brand died before police could have gotten to them, even if everything worked perfectly, he said.

''What happened was an unacceptable delay,'' Monegan said, briefing reporters on Thursday.

Godfrey, 53, was killed by Brand, 33, who was apparently upset over their failed romance. Brand also shot Godfrey's wife, Patti Godfrey, 52, before killing herself, police said.

The failure of the 911 system in the Godfrey case springs from a long-standing and previously undisclosed problem with the system and affects about 5 percent of the municipality's 100,000 properties, Monegan said. Roughly 5,000 properties, mainly in Chugiak and Eagle River, don't show up in the databases used by the emergency response system, meaning that as far as the 911 computer is concerned, they don't exist.

The police department and mayor's office wanted to make this problem public, Monegan said. Deputy Chief Mark Mew said the delay is evident on the 911 tape, which is likely to become public after the official investigation is finished, and the department wanted to be up front about it.

The police department is planning an internal review, both of its technology and staff, Monegan said.

The problem isn't with the computer system itself, but with the data it's given -- or not given.

In Eagle River, many street names and addresses are relatively new. Scores of residents use post office boxes. Thus countless properties have stayed off 911's radar.

Currently, the police department has only one way to tell which properties aren't in its database: to wait for 911 calls and see if that property shows up in their system.

''When we find it, we fix it,'' Monegan said.

Department officials said they greatly regretted that Patti Godfrey, who was shot multiple times, had to wait so long for help.

Patti Godfrey remains hospitalized and was still not well enough Thursday to be questioned by police. They said they hope to interview her next week.

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