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Report on Anchorage dispatch system faults city

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Anchorage officials knew of serious flaws in the police dispatch center but failed to fix them, according to a state investigation into Patti Godfrey's 48-minute wait for help after she was shot in August.

In its 36-page report, the Office of Victims' Rights said the delay violated Godfrey's right under state law to receive immediate medical assistance as a crime victim.

The municipality acknowledged it made mistakes, but dismissed the report as biased, incomplete, inaccurate and counterproductive, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

''The Municipality believes that the delay in locating Mrs. Godfrey's residence should not have occurred,'' the city's written response said. But it blamed the delay on ''a unique and unprecedented confluence of electronic, data and human errors in the police emergency response system, some of which were not and could not have been known to (the Anchorage Police Department.)''

Victims' rights advocate Steve Branchflower, a former Anchorage prosecutor, said he and associate advocate Tamara de Lucia stand by their findings, drawn from 4,105 pages of subpoenaed documents and numerous interviews over three months. The report is the first investigation released by the 5-month-old legislative Office of Victims' Rights.

''While the delayed response by police and paramedics was due to a combination of different factors ... they were all foreseeable difficulties that could have been prevented,'' the report says. ''The evidence is clear that the APD emergency dispatch system was simply inadequate and unable to quickly pinpoint the correct physical location of the Godfrey residence.''

Patti Godfrey was shot four times and her husband, Glenn, the state's retired public safety commissioner, was killed shortly after midnight Aug. 3 by a woman he had had an affair with. Patti Godfrey called 911 as the shooter, Karen Brand, rushed to reload. Brand killed herself minutes later.

As Godfrey lay bleeding, her arm nearly severed, she confirmed her correct address, 22953 Eagle River Road, with the 911 call taker and pleaded for help. But the dispatch computer suggested a different address, 22953 Eagle Glacier Loop, which doesn't exist. Police scrambled in the dark looking for it. Officers finally were led to the Godfrey home by an off-duty detective who lived nearby.

The phantom address was suggested because of a technical problem that affected 14 lots in the Godfrey neighborhood, city officials have said.

Among nine recommendations, the report urges the city to invest in upgrades to its 911 system, which would cost $1.6 million to $2.4 million, according to a city consultant's estimate. The report also calls for the city to develop a way for residents to verify their addresses in the dispatch database by calling an automated hot line; do better at hiring needed dispatchers; and increase efforts to put in a system to locate 911 cell phone callers, the report says.

The dispatch problems extend far beyond a computer glitch, and even beyond the Godfrey case, the victims' advocates concluded.

Police violated the privacy rights of Godfrey when they released to the media the 911 tape and transcript of her call without deleting her address and telephone number, the report contends. State law requires that such information about victims be kept confidential, the report said.

The city states there was no reason to keep the information confidential because the perpetrator was dead and posed no threat, and Branchflower's office did not object to the release. If anyone violated Godfrey's privacy rights, it was the Office of Victims' Rights by including Godfrey's name in its report despite her assent, the city's legal department said in a 14-page response released late Tuesday.



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