Officer Down: False Dispatch Leads to Shot Fired
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A rookie policeman nearly lost his life on the job in 2006 after being shot in the abdomen by an unwitting homeowner. The young officer and his partner had been dispatched to an upscale residence after a central station reported an intrusion alarm there. The policemen entered the home in the dark of night, suspecting an intruder may be inside, and soon after, the homeowner cut loose with a Smith & Wesson semiautomatic handgun.
An investigation on behalf of the police officer led by forensic alarm industry expert and president of Tenafly, N.J.-based IDS Research and Development Inc., Jeffrey Zwirn, suggests the monitoring company breached its duties in upholding industry dispatch standards that could have prevented a series of missteps that ultimately lead to the shooting. Zwirn is a long-time, ongoing SSI contributor.
The name of the victim, the homeowner and the central station involved remain anonymous throughout this article. The victim will be referred to by the fictitious name of “Officer John.” At press time a liability case brought against the homeowner and the central station by the injured officer was ongoing.
Zwirn contends his investigation demonstrates that if the central station had followed well established industry standards, as well as properly trained and supervised its monitoring personnel accordingly, Officer John in all likelihood would never have been put in harm’s way. This case provides an opportunity to examine industry standards and best practices that govern central station monitoring, as well as false-dispatch mitigation. The following report encapsulates Zwirn’s investigation of the details that led to the shooting and lessons learned in its wake.
Chronology of a Police Dispatch Gone Awry
The riddle of how the officers would misguidedly enter the home at around 2:35 a.m. plays out in the framework of two alarm activations made to the central station for two separate alarm events that were directly handled by two different monitoring personnel.
According to the records of the central station, immediately following the first alarm activation an employee initiated the prescribed call list by phoning the residence at 2:22 a.m. but received no answer. The employee placed a second call to the home moments later and an answering machine picked up. Next, the employee called the police department at 2:23 a.m., which resulted in the two policemen being dispatched to the residence.
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