KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department (KCPD), is trying a couple of different automatic ways to try to reduce the amount of time a 911 caller has on hold.
At Tuesday’s Board of Police Commissioner’s (BOPC) meeting, officers discussed an abandoned call back feature that could be available to KCPD by the end of the year.
Currently, if you’re on hold with 911, and then you hang up, a KCPD call taker will have to call you back when they’re free to see if you need help.
With the new abandoned call back feature, a machine will automatically call that person back.
“With 913 being an area code, we get a lot of false 911 calls,” Major Gregory Williams said in an interview with FOX4 Tuesday.
“So, this will be an automated feature where the computer calls them back, and then you’ll have a prompt that says, ‘Hey you dialed 911, Press one if you need police, or Press two if it was an accident.'”
The new feature should take the responsibility away from the current 911 call staff.
“Once that gets implemented, I think that will allow them more time to actually answer the 911 calls and not have to worry about doing all the abandoned calls,” Williams said of his staff.
In order for this to go into effect, AT&T has to add KCPD’s phone lines. This feature is separate from the auto attendant KCPD plans to put into effect at the beginning of next year. That will create a menu system for anyone who calls 9-1-1. You’d press one for police, two for fire, and three for EMS.
That system involves the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC).
MARC coordinates the 911 system KCPD uses, but Motorola makes it. The auto attendant and the abandoned call back feature were discussed by Deputy Chief Derek McCollum Tuesday.
“They have taken this seriously. They understand where we’re coming from and the urgency to get this moving forward,” he said of MARC and Motorola. “So, I was encouraged by the meeting that we had last week.”
“I think AT&T should be encouraged by the urgency,” BOPC President Cathy Dean replied.
“Everybody is. I mean, we’re not their only customer,” McCollum replied.
“I understand, but we have people that are dying. That’s different,” Dean responded.
“Understood. Understood,” McCollum said.
AT&T wouldn’t comment on Tuesday afternoon. Williams hopes the abandoned call back feature’s available by the end of the year.
Mayor Quinton Lucas was critical of MARC in July when leaders there shared the auto-attendant for KCPD couldn’t be put into place as quickly as he had hoped.
“Look, I think everybody needs to work together,” Mayor Lucas said in an interview with FOX4 Tuesday. “I’m never frustrated with anybody. We all have important jobs to do, and to the extent that we share our desire to make change, that’s because that’s what we’re hearing from the public.”
911 call takers and dispatchers are a part of KCPD’s Communications Unit. Williams told us they’re still down 28 employees in that unit alone.
In September of 2022, the average 911 wait time was 35 seconds. In September of this year, it was 37 seconds. In August of this year, it was 42, and in July, it was 40. However, Williams also said they’re taking about 9,000 more calls a month this year than they were in 2022.