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City of Cincinnati admits it could've done more to save Kyle Plush

'This can't happen to another family,' father says
Posted at 8:15 AM, May 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-29 12:25:11-04

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati's 911 center and police department will change how they operate after Kyle Plush died in his van last month.

Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney, responding to 33 questions from Plush's family, admitted operators and officers could've done more to help save the 16-year-old student. Plush called 911 twice from a parking lot outside Seven Hills School on April 10, but police never found him.

READ the full list of questions and answers below.

Ron Plush, who discovered his son's body later that day, said Duhaney's answers left him with even more questions.

"This can't happen to another family," Plush said. "We need to identify all the failures that day and work toward solutions."

The city is continuing to push ahead with an independent, outside investigation of what went wrong in the 911 and police response.

The two officers who were supposed to find Plush didn't get out of their patrol vehicle to look for him. Duhaney said Tuesday there's no standard operating procedure requiring them to do so, but admitted it was an "expectation" that they'd get out and look around if they couldn't find a caller in need.

He outlined numerous changes to both procedures and technology, some of them immediate and others more long-term:

  • The city is looking to upgrade in-car computer maps used by police officers. As WCPO first reported last month, GPS coordinates from Plush's cellphone were within feet of where he'd later be found dead. Although the 911 center had access to those coordinates, the two officers who responded to the call didn't.
  • Officers will be required to ask for additional information if they can't locate a caller. The city found the officers tried calling Plush's cellphone but didn't ask the 911 center for more details on Plush's whereabouts.
  • A dispatch code might be changed to include different subcategories. The operator who took Plush's first 911 listed it as "unknown trouble" because she didn't know everything about what help he needed. A subcategory might be added so firefighters, who have better tools to help someone trapped in a vehicle, would be dispatched in addition to police.

Among the Plush family's new questions:

  • If officers were sent to 5471 Red Bank Road -- an address within feet of Plush's van -- why were they in a parking lot on the other side of the street?
  • Why wasn't the dispatch report updated to reflect that Plush indicated he was going to die? The operator who took Plush's first call said she didn't hear that, but another operator listened and did hear it. Ron Plush wondered if noting that fact would've elevated the police response.
  • Where did officers go and what did they do for 9 minutes that aren't documented on video?
  • Plush's 911 calls were logged at "code 2," right below an officer-involved shooting in terms of severity. Did the officers respond accordingly?

Council members told Isaac they want those questions and more answered June 11, at the next meeting of the Law and Public Safety Committee.

Police Chief Eliot Isaac released an internal investigation report two weeks ago that largely exonerated the operators, dispatchers and officers of wrongdoing; it only found the officers violated policy by turning off their body-worn cameras.

Mayor John Cranley, who called Isaac's report "incomplete," said Tuesday he wanted to bring "moral clarity" to the city's failures. Those were threefold, he said: Operators should've listened to recordings of Plush's 911 calls and turned up the volume, firefighters should've been dispatched, and officers should've gotten out of their patrol vehicle.

"The calltaker was wrong, the dispatch was wrong, the cops were wrong," Cranley said.

Kyle Plush death investigation: Answers to family's questions by WCPO Web Team on Scribd