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NEW: DC Council bill would make DC 911 more transparent

A good first step from some DC Council members who want better and more information from DC 911 about staffing and mistakes

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Three DC Council members introduced a bill today to make DC 911 more open and transparent. It’s a good first step by members Brooke Pinto, Christina Henderson and Zachary Parker (read details below).

In asking for regular staffing data it should help the public better understand why 911 callers are more frequently getting recordings instead of being connected to emergency call-takers. It also provides a better accounting on mistakes made by 911 staff.

What the legislation doesn’t appear to do is demand accountability on specific incidents. DC 911 has long refused Freedom of Information Act requests about specific 911 calls using dubious privacy claims by its leadership as justification. The DC Office of Unified Communications has a long history of only releasing information when they want to and often in an effort to cover-up mistakes. It has very much been selective transparency and nothing resembling the openness and accountability its leaders like to talk about.

On Monday night, in a presentation before Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B’s Public Safety Committee, I asked its members to think about this: The DC Police Department is required to provide body-cam video on shootings that show intimate and private details during someone’s final moments, yet DC 911 gets away with claiming an invasion of privacy as justification for not providing details, 911 recordings or even redacted transcripts when its workers make mistakes in life-threatening situations.

Thanks to the council members for paying attention to my reporting and commentary and listening to DC Auditor Kathy Patterson, ANC commissioners, and others in efforts to demand DC 911 be a more open and trusted agency. Without real and timely transparency and accountability it will be impossible to fix DC 911.

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