Minneapolis 911

I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Raymond Callihan, who as I understand, is preparing to say good-bye to a husband and father. This family’s heartbreak was shared on the news Wednesday night.

My heart aches for them.

We know that the stakes involved in emergency response are high, and that we are often dealing with life and death situations. Please know that we are carefully reviewing this situation so that we can learn from it and improve.

I was first asked about the 911 program two weeks ago, when a reporter reached out to me about concerns she was hearing from 911 employees. At that time, the 911 operators and dispatchers were in the midst of an election to decide which union they wanted to represent them. Because of that union vote, the Bureau of Mediation Services had placed a “status quo order” on the city of Minneapolis. That meant that no one at the City — 911 management or elected officials — was allowed to talk publicly about training, systems or any other issues that they would discuss with a union. Orders like this are standard, and are meant to ensure that management cannot influence the outcome of a union vote. We respect these orders and respect our employees’ right to bargain collectively and choose a union to represent them.

Now, the union election is over and the status quo order has been lifted. What I couldn’t say then, I’ll say now.

Minneapolis 911 is in the process of adopting a new, common-sense staffing model, following best practices that have been put in place in many 911 centers around the country. In addition to hiring and training more staff, 911 operators and dispatchers are learning new skills that will help our center be even more flexible and effective in responding to emergencies.

Until now, operators and dispatchers were two separate jobs within Minneapolis 911: operators only took calls, while dispatchers have always been cross-trained both to take calls and dispatch them. Under our new staffing model, operators and dispatchers are being trained to do both jobs. This change will improve public safety because it will allow staff to do whatever job is needed most as emergency situations arise. It also reduces the need for overtime.

Another benefit to this new model is that it bases staffing levels on demand. We have much historical data that tell us the times of day that our call volume is highest and lowest, yet for decades, our staffing was not closely aligned with these historical activity levels. Now, we’ve changed that old practice so that during our busiest times, upwards of 16 employees can be on duty. With the new system, we are better able to balance staffing needs with call volumes and spread the workload more evenly across all shifts. And we have even more flexibility to respond to public-safety needs because operators and dispatchers are now cross-trained to do each other’s jobs.

The City of Minneapolis has been working on developing and implementing this model for three years, with the full support of our public-safety partners in the Police and Fire departments, and the Hennepin County ambulance service. They are part of 911’s advisory board, where we have discussed and refined these reforms over the last three years with full input from all partners. Both Police Chief Janeé Harteau and Fire Chief John Fruetel believe that 911 provides an essential and reliable service, and they support these reforms.

We continue to monitor the results of this new program, and in 2014, our average answer time for 911 calls is 7.75 seconds. But as common-sense as this new staffing model is, change is difficult for some people.

I have always taken an interest in ensuring our 911 operations are striving to the very best standards, both as a council member and now as the Mayor. As a City Council member, I fought to get more funding added to the 911 Center budget, which allowed management to hire two additional staff in 2013 and another two in 2014. I have also done an extensive tour of 911 – once before the 35-W bridge collapse and once again since then. I also spent time in the 911 center during the bridge collapse, one of the most tragic moments for our City. I saw firsthand the dedication of the employees and management who do such important work.

The job of 911 employees and management — and all of us at City Hall — is to help keep our city safe by providing the very best service to people in Minneapolis in the most effective way possible. We are committed to it and will continue to improve upon it.

My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the family and friends of Raymond Callihan at this very difficult moment for them. Their loss is a loss for all of us and for all of Minneapolis.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Mayor Betsy Hodges. Bookmark the permalink.

About Mayor Betsy Hodges

I am the 47th mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, sworn in on January 2, 2014. Prior to becoming mayor, I served on the Minneapolis City Council for eight years as the representative of Ward 13. On the Council, I served as chair of the Ways and Means/Budget Committee. Before running for public office, I was an organizer, working for TakeAction Minnesota and the Minnesota Justice Foundation. I also helped found a program in Albuquerque, New Mexico to get HIV-positive women the help and resources that they needed. My husband, Gary Cunningham, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) and a member of the Metropolitan Council. We have two children, four grandchildren, a dog and a slightly neurotic cat. In my spare time, I work on staying physically fit, writing, reading poetry and enjoying seasonal viewings of “Die Hard,” my favorite movie. I have an extensive collection of Wonder Woman memorabilia, and am an occasional karaoke singer with a limited range.

8 thoughts on “Minneapolis 911

  1. Seriously. Stop patronizing the citizens of the city and do something besides talking about it. You politicians are all the same.

  2. Well unfortunately this didn’t just start two weeks ago. If the mayoral candidates would have been spending time on issues they can solve, instead of talking about schools, people that don’t call 911 on a regular basis would have known this has been a problem for at least since last summer. Its your responsibility to have an interim program to make sure the phones are properly staffed, no matter what possible union action was going on in the backround.
    Mrs. Mayor you’ve got to decide what is more important at this point. You’ve enraged a whole section of the city that needs this 911 system more than other sections of the city. We have a police staffing issue that is about to explode and I haven’t heard but a small plan to add 30 to 40 officers a year. And then you have the nerve to say minneapolis is a safe city? I think streetcars need to put on the back burner until these public safety issues in the city are 100 percent solved.

  3. An Open Letter to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges
    I was dismayed by your dismissive response to the recent news reports about the dangerously low staffing levels at Minneapolis 911. For you to boldly and inaccurately state that facts were manipulated for sensationalism breaks my heart. It also defies belief since all the facts are there and easy enough to confirm. As a dedicated 30 year City employee, my involvement in this issue is due to my loyalty to the citizens of Minneapolis. It is my JOB to serve them in public safety to the best of my ability. The recent staffing levels are perilously close to making that impossible.
    When only one person is answering 911 calls, even in the middle of the night and with the backup from other positions, we could miss a critical call. In addition, during an event like the recent fatal fire, many employees are tied up dealing with the critical event, making even fewer people available to answer the ringing phone lines. Critical events do not make appointments for our “peak staffing” periods. We are supposed to be ready for those calls at ALL times. The night time hours, when our recent low staffing periods have occurred, are also when the most urgent calls come in. People who are calling 911 in the middle of the night REALLY need it. A lot of those calls would require us to gather more information if we are able to. But the 911 staff is now in a position where they have to decide between the current call they are on and answering the incoming call, which may or may not be even more urgent.
    We don’t need 10 people manning the phones at 3 am, but even those with little knowledge of our business will recognize that ONE or even TWO people just isn’t enough when lives are at stake.
    Since I don’t recall you ever visiting Minneapolis 911 to see how we work, I would like to extend an invitation for you to come down, sit with us and listen to how we do our jobs. I am proud to say that Minneapolis 911 has some of the best 911 employees in the country and we would love to show you how it’s done, preferably before your next knee jerk reaction to media reports. It chills the heart to hear the phones in over-ring for many minutes at a time and wonder if we are getting to the people that need us. Surely you will have more empathy once you have experienced it for yourself.
    I recall that one of your campaign commitments was to make the city safer. If you truly mean that maybe you could work with us to make that a reality instead of just another unfulfilled campaign promise.
    Finally, the negativity with which you have responded to a real City problem concerns me. Of all the people working for the residents of Minneapolis, surely you have a responsibility to maintain a higher standard than the average employee. You are the Mayor now, the name calling is beneath your dignity.

    Robin Jones
    Police/Fire Dispatcher
    Minneapolis 911

    • Robin,
      Thanks for your input and service to the city. Its not just the job you’re doing, but shining the light of the truth that some don’t want to be shone. We residents know there’s problems, and we don’t blame those on the end of the phone. We know it has to do with higher ups, managers and politicians. Thanks for standing up for all the residents and our safety.

  4. It’s unfortunate a life was lost for the city to move forward on this…. Deepest Sympathy to the Raymond Callihan family and friends.

  5. What does “change is difficult for some people” have to do with the lack of 911 employees answering the phone. The facts have been shown that there aren’t enough people answering the phone when 911 callers, and the mayor’s constituency, are seeking help. Having a 911 call ring for 1 minute in an emergency can literally mean life or death. Being placed on hold for 8 minutes isn’t helping either. Changes in training and new staffing models aren’t the issue. Common sense is assigning enough employees to answer the calls and to provide service, not just place them on hold within 7.75 seconds. Best practices of other 911 centers may look good on paper, but isn’t it management’s responsibility to use the resources available to their best advantage. Why did the mayor bring up the 911 employees union? Was it to try and deflect the gross mismanagement of said 911 employees brought on by the city’s appointed employees?

  6. This is at least the second time I’ve heard the mayor state “Minneapolis is a safe city”. It makes me even more afraid to live here. If she thinks it’s already “safe”, and we know that’s not true, she won’t do anything to make that statement become a truth. Somebody voted in a mayor who is choosing to be blind to the frequent , violent crimes & the reasons for the continuation of it.

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