TAUNTON (CBS) – According to the Taunton Fire Department, the dispatcher working the night of the Taunton rampage was inundated with so many calls at once, the system became difficult to handle.
The problems are apparent in the recordings of those 911 calls.
In one case a caller is heard saying, “Some guy is like randomly attacking somebody.”
The dispatcher tells her to stay on the line, at which point the sound of a phone ringing goes on for nearly three minutes. “What the hell,” the caller says.
In another case, the dispatcher transfers a frantic caller to a busy signal. He’s later heard saying, “Alright. The police are aware of the situation. I just tried to connect you, and it went dead.”
A state dispatcher trying to patch a cellphone caller into Taunton Police expresses her frustration when she’s asked to “stay on the line.”
She says, “but you transferred me to the ambulance the last time you said that.”
WBZ security analyst and former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis says it was a case of a small city getting more calls than its staff could handle. “I think the state has to step in and take a look at how that’s operated,” Davis said.
The head of the Massachusetts State 911 Department, Frank Pozniak, says creating regional dispatch centers to handle groups of cities and towns would help. “You do have more resources that are better able to handle a major incident,” says Pozniak.
It’s a change the state has been pushing for the last eight years, offering grants as incentives. But the movement has met resistance from unions.
“It’s a matter of scale and change, which is always difficult,” says Davis, “but I think that this is a good example as to what the difficulty can be if you keep it a small operation.”