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Dangerous New Phone System For Kenosha Police, Fire and Sheriff’s Department Needs To Be Fixed…NOW: Opinion

Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department Squad Car
(Photo by Kevin Mathewson, Kenosha County Eye)

If you have an emergency in Kenosha County, please dial 9-1-1. If you take away anything from this op ed, please know that. Most people are not shy to dial 9-1-1. This author was a 9-1-1 call-taker and dispatcher for a call center that served six police departments and two fire departments, taking non-emergency calls and 9-1-1 calls thousands of times. Many people abuse the 9-1-1 system for parking complaints or other frivolous issues. The reverse is also true. Something that many people don’t know, but those of us that have worked in the public safety field do know, is that many people call the non-emergency line for actual emergencies. Many people are hesitant and even nervous about calling 9-1-1. This author has taken hundreds of non-emergency calls from people with real emergencies, such as elderly people having severe chest paint, turning out to be suffering from a myocardial infarction (heart attack). Many calls on the non-emergency line from wives who were being beaten by drunk husbands. That is why a non-emergency line needs to be treated as an emergency line. Up until recently, it was in Kenosha County. Not it places alternate-side parking ahead of the need for police or EMS. If you google “Kenosha Police Non Emergency” or “Kenosha Sheriff Non Emergency” the result is the same, 262-656-1234. It’s an easy number to remember, for a specific reason. My old non-emergency line was 847-270-9111. See what they did there?

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If you dial 262-656-1234 for the first time, you will not be on the line with a dispatcher, but a recorded message. It will take you 60 seconds or more to determine which button to press to talk to a dispatcher. You would think the very first option, one, would be for a dispatcher. Wrong. It’s the last, number seven. Let’s look at the options that were deemed more important than speaking with a live person:

  1. Reports, Open Records Requests, Records Department
  2. Jail Inmates
  3. Administrative Office for Kenosha Police, M-F
  4. Administrative Office for Kenosha Sheriff M-F
  5. Alternate Side Parking
  6. Paying Parking Tickets
  7. To Speak with Dispatcher and Get Help

Here is a video of me calling the non-emergency number today, 8-27-2022 (I said “5” and meant “7”) :

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KCE emailed the Police Chief, Fire Chief, Sheriff, 9-1-1 Director, all County Board Supervisors, All Aldermen, The Mayor, City Administrator, 9-1-1 Board Chairman, The Mayor and the County Executive. So far no one wants to take credit for this very dangerous decision. Don’t worry, I will find out and let you know.

At the very least, the option for talking to a dispatcher should be moved up to number one. The best option would be to get rid of this disastrous new design meant to weed out people who call for benign reasons. 262-656-1234 should be answered by a live dispatcher, ready to send police or fire, PERIOD. This isn’t a DMV phone system. This is a lifeline for 200,000 people for f*** sake. We also have a 9-1-1 director, Josh Nielsen who’s poor leadership has forced a mass exodus of dispatchers, leaving our 9-1-1 center under-staffed. At best, the 9-1-1 board should fire Nielsen and fix the phone mistake.

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If you have called the non-emergency line in the last few weeks and had help delayed, I want to know about it. Please call, text, or email me.

Kevin E. Mathewson

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34 Responses

    1. Thank you for the corrections. I’m not a extremely educated man. My strengths are investigating and not writing/grammar/spelling.

  1. If someone can’t tell the difference between a real emergency and a non-emergency, it’s on them.
    Why dumb down a system for dumb people?

    1. I am sorry to tell you that your remarks are incredibly dumb. A simple change in the order of the prompts is all that it would take to make the system safer and more effective.

      All of us have someone in our lives who is “dumb” and could be harmed by waiting for prompt #7 to talk to a dispatcher. Imagine your child or elderly parent or friend who becomes “dumb” due to the stressful situation for which they are seeking help. It could even happen to you.

      Did you really think this through or are you just plain dumb?

      1. You seem angry at my comment. That’s dumb of you.
        Also, It’s very obvious to Most People what’s an emergency and what’s not. ?‍♂️

        1. I am somewhat stunned that a normal human being would make such a comment.

          Maybe you are smart enough to know what is a true emergency. Sometimes other people in our lives and family may not know and may have their judgement clouded by stress. To me, it is dumb to not make a simple change in the prompts to make it easier for these people. Why shouldn’t we expect that our government be competent?

          Maybe that is beyond you.

          1. I’m not for changing things to accommodate a smaller margin of people. Not in this case. If this is getting you upset, seek help..

  2. To Saturn:

    The Nazis had the same attitude. I guess you are not a normal human being.

    I do not need any help. It is you that has the traits of anti-social personality disorder. You need the help. The more you write, the more it shows.

          1. Saturn: You really are stupid.

            Q is giving you shit and you thank him?

            It is called satire. It requires a higher level of intellect to understand. You don’t have this higher level of thinking, thus, it goes right over your head.

  3. To Biker Bitch: Duh, I’m not going to argue on here forever.
    I bet you’re so fat and ugly a “tough woman” that looks fucking hideous. Even your name is disgusting ?

  4. I sure recognize that pickup truck, it’s the one that tailgated my ass on Highway C coming home from the county fair.

    1. Probably because you were going painfully slow and needed more time to think about what snarky comment to make as soon as you got your keyboard back in your hands.

      1. How fast do you suggest driving when there is a squad sitting in your mirror? I was doing about five over in a 40 mph zone and it was doing about 50, seems like a poor plan for me to be doing 50 in a 40.

  5. The goal is to get some of the nuisance calls out of the call centers. Calling 911 in an emergency is taught at the beginning levels of school. People should have figured it out by now. Telecommunicators are there to get your emergency and non-emergency fire, rescue and LE services to you, not direct you on how to get an accident report or put you through to the sheriff.

    With some “investigative” reporting you would be able to report on the nationwide shortage of telecommunicators. This is true of JS and some of the smallest and largest call centers in the US.

    Morale is influenced by many factors. Stress from being on the front line of tragedy, forced overtime, work hours, low pay, call centers often being the jumping off point for people that want to be in firs/LE jobs, better pay and hours in private industry and the list goes on. Management may be an issue but there are bigger concerns.

    There was recently an investigative article from a respected national source that highlighted the difficulty that governments are having in hiring and retaining employees.

    Focus your opinions on the true problems.

    1. There are many “true problems.”

      There’s a lot of pressure on dispatchers and they are further kept isolated from the people they serve by the working conditions — in some ways like being in jail.

    2. Some good points as well. It seems many of these problems exacerbated with the growth of “call centers” in which dispatchers became far more isolated. It started to some extent with the idea that “civilians” could be paid less than officers who used to do these jobs. That was the case in most agencies although the Iowa Highway Patrol paid dispatchers the same base as troopers but without the extra per diem and uniform/equipment allowances (and they got some great dispatchers). Non-sworn dispatchers used to work for a police agency which means they were part of that department and were trained by and interacted with the rest of the staff (and the public face-to-face) as well. There was far less isolation than today. And, yes, it was a stepping stone for many to become officers (myself included) because good dispatchers must have the mindset of a good officer. I participated in daily roll call, occasionally went out on calls with officers (and rode with each officer) and had specialized training as well. Dispatchers need to understand an officer’s job in order to protect the officer and the public (and in my department the dispatcher’s assignment was an order unless and until countermanded by a sergeant or higher). Not only did you need to know your community but neighboring ones as well because of mutual aid and calls for service received for locations outside city limits. But then the politicians and bean counters came along and decided consolidation, 911 call centers and the like were a good idea and dispatchers became more removed from the officers and the public and the rest of the shit is history. And, yes, agencies who have their own dispatchers did look at them as part of the talent pool for officer vacancies. People you know and have watched develop. Plus, aspiring officers have a strong incentive to do excellent work. As I said, the politicians and bean counters ruined it and computerization and 911 call centers didn’t help much. (And, yes, it IS possible for decentralization with 911.)

      Kevin’s original point was the triumph of bureaucracy over common sense and law enforcement smarts. And, yes, we should be encouraging people to call the non-emergency number (that should be in dispatch) for calls that are important but not a “when second count” situation. What dumbass screwed with the phone system should have his or her ass canned.

  6. Kevin is spot on here — and it is just the tip of the iceberg.

    The Kenosha City-County Joint Services dispatch operation is a time bomb that does not adequately work for the safety of all people in Kenosha County. I do not quibble with the decision to replace police officers with “civilian” dispatchers (cost saving move) that was made in 1982. Good dispatchers are good dispatchers, period.

    The problem is how the system is run. It is beholden to computers and data and not people. Those of us who were dispatchers and officers know this.

    When you call 911 a call taker answers the phone and bombards you with 20 questions or more. This data is entered into a computer database. Then it is relayed to the dispatcher who has to figure out which units are available to send before actually dispatching the call. This moronic data-driven system wastes precious time and delays responses to emergency calls.

    Contrast that with what it was like before that. You call the police (or fire department) with an emergency. The dispatcher gathers the basic information first and IMMEDIATELY dispatches officers to the scene, often while still gathering information from the caller on the phone. A well-trained dispatcher is often helpful in coordinating the law enforcement response on the ground as well.

    The bureaucratic, data driven miscreants who designed and run this inefficient system care more about their own fiefdom than doing what should be job one. (I will concede the ANI technology that shows where a call is coming from is something we didn’t have in the past.)

    Kenosha Joint Services is a farce in another way: no direct law enforcement supervision and control. But nothing will change because politicians run the show.

    1. Call takers STILL gather information WHILE sending services. The call goes in as soon as there’s a call type, address, and brief description. The call taker continues updating details in the CAD (computer-aided dispatch app) while the radio dispatcher has units en route.

      I’m not sure where you got the information that this has changed, but you are 100% incorrect on this.

      Lots of issues need to be addressed inside Joint Services, like the mass exodus of high-senior, well-trained personnel starting in 2016, but you’re off the mark on this one.

      1. I’m not. Typing it in to CAD still takes more time. And then we have the incompetent dispatchers who don’t know the difference between Roosevelt and Washington Road!

    2. Megadittos but you forgot how arrogant, condescending and rude some of the dispatchers have been to citizens, officers, etc. Maybe it’s the working conditions but this bureaucracy needs to be drained.

  7. That phone system was put in place because of the amount of calls dispatchers were getting that weren’t emergencies, taking their attention away from calls that were ACTUAL emergencies. Their call volume has gone down 30-40% because of that list they put in place when calling the NE line. Before it was put in, dispatchers were having to give out phone numbers to people that could’ve just looked it up. They can most certainly move the “to speak to a dispatcher” option but bashing people isn’t going to do it.

    1. Sadly, we don’t have phone books these days in many homes and businesses. Hard to “look it up.:

      Dispatcher pay needs improvement but also working conditions.

  8. Well, the phone problem was partially fixed (thanks KCE) although still not answered by a human. The problems affecting dispatching remain.

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