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Cincinnati's Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney promises 911 center action plan by April 30

Posted at 3:47 PM, Apr 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-21 16:01:03-04

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati's acting city manager promised a plan to fix the city's troubled 911 center by the end of the month.

Patrick Duhaney made that pledge after a half-hour on the job. He took over as the city's top administrator after Harry Black submitted his resignation notice minutes before a meeting to oust him Saturday morning.

Duhaney, Mayor John Cranley and Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman stopped into the 911 center later in the afternoon to show support for the staff there after a lengthy meeting Tuesday, called to discuss the death of 16-year-old Kyle Plush, detailed yearslong problems there.

Talking to reporters outside, Cranley laid much of the fault on Black.

"We weren't getting the feedback in current leadership structure that we had. We needed a manager that was going to listen to people and not criticize people who came forward and said we have low morale, high turnover and not enough resources," Cranley said.


Dysfunction at the 911 center, a life-or-death operation, is nothing new: The WCPO I-Team first uncovered problems beginning in 2013, including low staffing, inadequate training and, in October 2016, call routing from cellphones that left some calls unanswered.

In August, the city even announced it would drop its subcontractor after more than a year of problems, including a three-hour window when people couldn't hear the audio on incoming and outgoing calls.

RELATED: Ex-employee alleges managerial incompetence, dysfunction at 911 center

The issue came to public attention again last week after Plush, a Seven Hills student, suffocated in his van, despite two calls to 911 for help.

Stephanie MaGee, a 911 operator, heard Plush's first call and sent officers to 5741 Red Bank Road to investigate a woman trapped in a van, apparently believing the teen's cries for help came from a female. MaGee noted she got Plush's location from latitude/longitude coordinates -- which ended up being within feet of where he was trapped. 

Still, Officers Edsel Osborn and Brian Brazile didn't find him and said they got no response when they tried calling his phone.

In Plush's second call to 911, placed while the officers were still at the scene, he gave the make, model and color of his van. Amber Smith, the operator who took that call, said she couldn't hear him, and so those details never got to police. Smith sent a TTD, or telecommunications device for the deaf, message to Plush. That's something an operator might do if they believe the caller was hearing-impaired or unable to speak. She also tried calling him back twice.

The latitude/longitude coordinates from Plush's second call were slightly different than his first, but still were within feet of his minivan. Smith later said her terminal froze up, so it's not clear if she had access to those coordinates. 

She didn't document the call, however.

According to the internal review: "Network connectivity connection problem was noted at the time of the call. This possibly is responsible for the incident not being entered."

Black ultimately lost his job because Councilman Greg Landsman felt the manager wasn't focused enough on addressing the 911 center, and instead was distracted by a running feud with Cranley. Landsman announced Thursday he'd be the critical fifth vote to support firing Black if he didn't resign.

Duhaney said he's focused on fixing 911 services and would present an action plan to the city council's Law and Public Safety Committee on April 30. 

Smitherman, chairman of the committee, said his team would be back to the center Monday for a more exhaustive tour.

While Tuesday's five-hour meeting focused primarily on the 911 center, numerous questions remain about the actions of Osborne and Brazile. An internal investigation is underway.

Body camera videos don't show the officers exit their patrol car. The two videos show about three minutes of the search from two different perspectives. Police previously said the officers spent about 11 minutes searching five parking lots.

The body camera videos, which police released Friday in response to a public records request, show the officers driving around a parking lot, but never getting out of their vehicle.


The videos show the officers turn into the parking lot south of the Seven Hills School Resale Shop. Plush's van was parked in the lot north of the shop, on the same side of Red Bank Road. They make a U-turn, and then turn back onto Red Bank and then into another lot across the road, near tennis courts and a baseball field.

"I don't see nobody, which I didn't imagine I would," one officer says after they make a U-turn.

Smitherman and Cranley both said they'd not viewed the entire footage, only what they've seen on television. Neither wanted to comment with specifics until the investigation is complete.

Generally, though, Cranley said, "the city did not act in an ideal manner here to say the least.

"I've said from the beginning, I blame myself, and there's blame on all of us on this part incident. But moving forward, we've got to change the structure here."