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Response Time Questioned for Law Enforcement

By Doris Elmore
Staff Writer

The sheriff’s office response time to an incident that took place on Saturday, Oct. 3, in Atwood was the topic of conversation last week. The following information was released from the Douglas County Sheriff’s office on Oct. 5.

“On Oct. 5, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office received a telephone call from Jennifer Jensen with WCIA TV. Ms. Jensen inquired about an incident that took place on Oct. 3, around 4:15 p.m. in the Village of Atwood. Ms. Jensen advised she had received some complaints about police response times in emergency situations and specifically referenced this call. During the reported incident, the Atwood Police Department did not have an officer on-duty, thus requiring the response from the Piatt County Sheriff’s Office and/or Douglas County Sheriff’s Office depending upon the nature of the call and incident location.”

The release continued, “The following information is comprised of data obtained through a query in to our computer aided dispatch (CAD) system, 911 recording system, radio logs, and squad car GPS data. This information was compiled and created in to a timeline to provide a clear picture of our involvement leading up to the incident and our response to the incident:

2:55 p.m.-Douglas County Deputy arrives on scene in the City of Newman to assist the Newman Police Department with a situation that resulted in a person being taken in to custody.

4:02 p.m.-Douglas County Deputy clears the call in Newman and returns to routine patrol.

4:14 p.m.-Douglas County Deputy conducts a traffic stop at 1400 N. County Rd. 2530, approximately 30.7 miles away from the pending call in Atwood.

4:20 p.m.-Piatt County Sheriff’s Office pages the Atwood Fire Department First Responders to an address in Atwood for a battery between two individuals.

4:21 p.m.-Douglas County Dispatcher attempts to call Piatt County Sheriff’s Office to find out information regarding the page but receives no response.

4:21 p.m.-Douglas County Dispatcher contacts Piatt County Sheriff’s Office via radio and inquires: “Do you have an Atwood Officer on responding to this call or is this something we need to respond to?” Piatt County responds: “I have dispatched a Piatt Co. Deputy.”

4:22 p.m.-Douglas County Deputy completes traffic stop.

4:23 p.m.-Piatt County Sheriff’s Office advised Atwood Fire Department the assailant is no longer on scene.

4:35 p.m.-Piatt County Sheriff’s Office contacts Douglas County Sheriff’s Office via telephone and advises a suspect in the battery is believed to reside in Douglas County and requests a Deputy check the address. Douglas County Deputy goes en route to check the residence from 2050 E. U.S. Route 36, approximately 20.5 miles from the incident location.

4:41 p.m.-Douglas County 911 receives a 911 call from a male inquiring where an officer is. Caller was informed we did not receive the original 911 call and transfers caller to originating agency, the Piatt County Sheriff’s Office

4:46 p.m.-Atwood Fire Department advised the incident took place in Douglas County and requests a Deputy respond, Atwood Fire was advised we already have a Deputy en route.

4:53 p.m.-Douglas County Deputy arrives in the area of the incident.

4:54 p.m.-Douglas County Deputy arrives on scene.

Based on all of this information, the on-duty Deputy was 20.7 miles from the scene before being requested to respond. The Deputy travels 20.7 miles in 19 minutes before arriving on scene. Douglas County is approximately 417 square miles or approximately 1/3 the size of the State of Rhode Island. On this particular date and time, 2 Douglas County Deputies were utilizing benefit time leaving 1 Deputy on-duty for the entire county until 6 p.m.

Based on the totality of the information available, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office responded appropriately based on the information they had at the time and found the response time would be within reason.”

Atwood Police Chief Rob Bross received an e-mail from Ms. Jensen from WCIA stating that an Atwood woman, Karen Eveland, said her 16-year-old son was physically assaulted on Saturday. Eveland told Ms. Jensen that sheriff’s deputies responded, but not until 45 minutes after the 911 call was made. She also told Ms. Jensen that Atwood police aren’t on shift on the weekends, so response is handled by Douglas and Piatt Sheriffs. She asked for Chief Bross’ comment on this statement.

Chief Bross responded to her e-mail and the incident as follows: “Thank you for your e-mail. I was notified of this incident on Saturday afternoon by a deputy with Piatt County, but was unable to respond because I was out of state with my family.

The Atwood Police Department currently has just one full-time officer and a small number of part-time officers to cover the village. I switch my schedule to try and cover as many hours as I can. It is also difficult to schedule some part-time officers due to their other schedules.

The Atwood Police Department tries to respond to all calls within the village but does request assistance from time to time, just as we assist other agencies. When an Atwood officer is not on duty or available to respond, a county deputy is dispatched.

We are currently looking to hire a second full-time officer. In the past hiring cycle we had only two applicants and they were not chosen to continue to the next step of the hiring process. Several agencies have recently seen a decrease in quality applicants. Any questions regarding dispatch or deputies’ response should be directed to those respective agencies.”

The Atwood police committee held a regular meeting on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 8, and discussed the current situation. The committee is exploring different options to add personnel to the department. These options will be in line with the present budget. Chris Stoltz, chairman of the police committee, stated the committee is behind Chief Bross 100 percent.

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