WASHINGTON (DC News Now)—A new report from the Office of the DC Auditor shows minimal progress has been made in improving the District’s 911 call center.
“Emergency response, especially to medical issues, may be the most important function government provides and we’re not getting close enough to zero bad outcomes,” said Auditor Kathy Patterson.
Friday’s report is a follow up to an audit issued by Patterson’s office in October of 2021, which made 31 recommendations for improvements to the Office of Unified Communications. Patterson ordered the audit in late 2020, following issues with leadership, training and use of protocol which led to problems with call taking and dispatch.
“Very few of the recommendations have actually been implemented,” said Patterson. “It’s not good news.”
According to the new report, only one of the 31 recommendations made have been fully implemented. 24, or 77% of the other recommendations, have been “minimally” implemented.
“We are failing to meet the needs of District residents. Period,” said Patterson.
“It’s disappointing that the reforms have not progressed like they should’ve but it’s not surprising,” said Dave Statter, a safety advocate who has investigated issues with DC’s 911 call center.
Statter applauded the agency for its one completed recommendation, which improved the use of location determining technology for calls. But he said it’s concerning the agency hasn’t added more, focused supervision to the call room floor as recommended.
“They need better supervision at DC 911. It’s not there. They’re not there yet and they don’t seem to be close on that point where they have the supervision needed, hands on supervision to track some for of these problems and track them before they occur. That’s just not happening,” said Statter.
DC News Now reached out to the OUC’s Acting Director, Karima Holmes. However, she wasn’t available for comment.
Holmes took over the agency after the recommendations were made. But, she has a history with the agency. She served as director from 2015 until January of 2021. And left the position shortly after the original audit was ordered. Mayor Muriel Bowser reappointed her in March, a decision she defended in a press conference Thursday.
“Karima Holmes brings a level of experience that is unparalleled,” said Bowser. “Understanding all aspects of the job.”
Holmes responded to the report in a letter written to Auditor Patterson last week.
In it she wrote, “Immediately upon my appointment as Acting Director on March 7, 2022, I reviewed the audit and began forward progress. I also rounded out my executive leadership team… and we began to tackle the task list I developed to address the findings and recommendations.”
Patterson hopes more progress will happen.
“Mistakes will continue to be made, because we are human and mistakes do get made. The challenge is to reduce those numbers to as close to zero as we can get. And that’s what the 31 recommendations are aimed at,” she said.
Another report will be released later this year, which will include evaluations of two events that happened this summer where two different children in the District died. Most recently, a three-month boy died after being left in a hot car. Critics claim a mix up with dispatch could be to blame.