CHICAGO — A new report from the City of Chicago’s Inspector General finds it’s currently impossible to say with certainty how quickly police respond to 9-1-1 calls in many cases.
When Evelyn O’Connor was randomly attacked along the Mag Mile last winter, she called 9-1-1 but gave up on waiting for cops to come.
“We waited quite a while, maybe 20 minutes and at that time I was just like I want to get home,” she said.
Faced with an exodus of officers in recent years, WGN Investigates has reported similar stories about slow – or no – police response.
The city’s inspector general set out to evaluate police response times; but ran into a wall. The IG found nearly half of the calls to 9-1-1 for police response did not include a response back with an officer’s arrival time at the scene.
“Without this basic information, we can’t assess whether City services are provided equitably or efficiently—and we can’t improve what we can’t measure,” said inspector general Deborah WItzburg.
Chicago has 1,600 fewer officers than it did before the pandemic. As WGN Investigates reported in January, recently retired cops like John Garrido called it a critical shortage.
“What we really started to notice over the last few years is we didn’t have the manpower to man the beat cars,” he said.
The lack of data doesn’t mean there was no police response. The Office of Public Safety and Accountability found most high priority calls, things like shootings, have a 6-to-12 minute response time, depending on where you are in the city. However, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications says those times may be longer than reality because of the way the data is gathered.
As Evelyn O’Connor told WGN Investigates in January, long waits can lead to more victims.
“As he continued walking farther, as he walks, you could hear screams going down the street and we were just waiting, waiting for a police office to come and help,” she said.
Chicago police are responding to the inspector general’s report agreeing that officers can and should to do a better job of reporting their arrival times at a scene. They hope upgrades to the computer dispatch system will make it automatic.
And the data is important because it’ll help determine which neighborhoods are most impacted by slow police response times.
City Inspector General Deborah Witzburg joined the WGN Evening News to discuss the findings.