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EP’s Sexton doesn’t think a 911 ‘hiccup’ will turn into indigestion

  • Written by Bob Rakow

 The mayor of Evergreen Park said a “hiccup” in Oak Lawn’s 911 emergency dispatch center is no reason for concern.
  His comments came shortly after a letter written by the Evergreen Park village attorney outlining serious concerns with the system was made public.
  “We’re confident everything will work out fine,” Mayor Jim Sexton said. “A couple of things didn’t get dispatched.”
  A Feb. 24 letter from Evergreen Park attorney Michael Cainkar to Kathy Hansen, Oak Lawn’s director of emergency communications, said Evergreen Park Police Chief Michael Saunders “outlined a series of incidents over the last several weeks involving delayed emergency dispatches.”
  Oak Lawn provides emergency dispatching services to Evergreen Park as well as other surrounding communities and fire protection districts.
  The letter added that dispatchers provided misinformation to Evergreen Park police officers. “To compound matters, the dispatchers and team leaders demonstrated an utter lack of concern, if not overt hostility, when members of the police department followed up on botched emergency dispatches seeking an explanation for what had happened,” the letter said.
  The letter goes on to detail a Feb. 14 incident in which an elderly Evergreen Park resident called police about someone knocking at the door. Police, however, were not dispatched to the house until five minutes after the call was placed to dispatch. The letter also referenced a Feb. 16 call in which police were not notified that an offender had a handgun.
  Sexton said there were some “hiccups” in the system but he did not believe the public safety in Evergreen Park was at risk.
  The issue was first raised when Oak Lawn Trustee Bob Streit criticized village manager Larry Deetjen for failing to notify trustees of the Cainkar letter.
  “Neither the mayor nor the manager thought it was important to tell the board about these issues,” Steit said at last week’s village board meeting.
  Streit the village board is responsible for setting policy, which it cannot accomplish “when complaints and issues are hidden from the board. There is no excuse, especially when it comes to the safety of the public and our residents.”
  “We have real complaints about a delayed response where a squad was not even dispatched for even six minutes on a 911 call. The board isn’t even provided any information,” Streit said. “We were never informed by the mayor or the manager.”
  Streit, who voted against the decision to outsource the village’s 911 services, has continued to criticize the move as part of his ongoing attack on Mayor Sandra Bury.
  Trustees in January voted 4-2 to outsource 911 services to Norcomm Public Safety Communications, a move that could save the village $1 million over two years, village manager Larry Deetjen said.
  Deetjen strongly rebuked Striet for making the Cainkar letter public.
  He said he was deeply disappointed that a trustee saw fit “to discuss a matter non- factually and also publically discuss an interdepartmental memorandum.”
  “It’s shameful,” Deetjen said at the village board meeting.
  The village manager said Cainkar was “flabbergasted that such a document would be displayed earlier today on a political blog authored by a former mayor and a sitting trustee.”
  Deetjen would not comment on the contents of the letter.
  He said that the village’s 911 dispatch center handles more than 100,000 calls a year. “He’s referring to three calls,” Deetjen said of Streit.
  “Every day, 24/7, (the dispatchers) do their very best,” he said.
  Sexton refused to comment on perceived political posturing that accompanied Streit’s decision to discuss the letter at the board meeting.
  “I just don’t want to get into their business,” he said. “I don’t want to get involved in their stuff.”
  He added that Evergreen Park’s concerns likely would not have been politicized if they were lodged before Oak Lawn outsourced its 911 services.