Chicago Police Department Non-Emergency Calling Problems: Having trouble getting non-emergency calls in Chicago answered? Here is a big reason.


One of the reasons Chicagoans might have trouble getting their non-emergency calls to the city answered is that officers at the Chicago Police Department’s non-emergency call center struggled to answer. the performance expectations of their bosses.

That’s according to records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times which show officers’ “average service level” – the percentage of calls answered within the police department’s “target response time” – was only 38% during a sampling period from April 19 to April. 30.

When asked if senior police officials were satisfied with this performance, a department spokesperson said the unit was “continuously evaluated to identify areas for improvement.”

The Alternative Intervention Section is made up of cops who have been stripped of their police powers and others who are not medically empowered to fully perform their duties. They work in a building on the Near West Side.

Last month, the Sun-Times reported that callers on the city’s 311 non-emergency lines have sometimes experienced long delays this year in reaching someone there. One woman, Kiama Doyle, said she spent at least 20 calls and four hours or more on the phone trying to file a non-urgent report that her Nissan Rogue was stolen in March.

Doyle said she made most of her calls to 311. Her phone records do not reveal whether her delays occurred at the 311 call center – which is made up of civilian employees in the city – or after. his transfer to the alternative intervention section of the police.

People can call 311 to request municipal service like garbage collection and to complain about things like airport noise and rat infestation.

People who call to complete a non-urgent police report are transferred to the alternative response section – either by the 311 operators or by pressing “7” on their phone to be automatically transferred there. Or they can bypass this process by directly calling the alternate response section at (312) 746-6000.

Citizens can also complete non-urgent police reports online or have officers in the field or at police stations take their reports.

Doyle said his mother attempted to file a report at a South Side police station but was told she couldn’t because she didn’t own the vehicle. Doyle said she filed her report over the phone because she now lives in Arizona.

According to records released by the city over the last 12 days of April:

  • The average wait time for an agent to pick up the phone was two minutes and 46 seconds. The biggest delay for an officer to pick up the phone was over 29 minutes – April 20.
  • Over 12,000 calls were made to the Alternative Response Section during this period, including those transferred from the 311 center and those made directly to the unit.
  • About 9,300 calls were intercepted by cops answering the phone. About 2,760 people hung up rather than waiting after being put on hold.
  • The 311 operators transferred approximately 1,500 calls to agents. Callers pressed “7” to bypass a live 311 operator more than 5,760 times.

The majority of calls to the alternative response section do not result in a police report, as many of them concern information that does not require it, according to police officials.

Theft was the # 1 report type filed by the unit. Slightly more theft reports – 1,394 – were filed by agents of the Alternative Response Section than by cops in the city’s 22 districts, who collected 1,382 theft reports during that time.

Agents in the Alternative Response Section also recorded slightly more reports of vehicle thefts than district cops: 383 to 335.

Agents of the Alternative Intervention Section do not take reports on traffic accidents.

The entrance to the building where 311 operations and the alternative response section are headquartered at 2111 W. Lexington.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

Launched more than 20 years ago, the 311 center – and the alternative response section – was supposed to relieve the 911 operators who handle life-or-death calls.

In 2013, the police department headed by then-mayor Rahm Emanuel decided to send an alternative response to a larger portion of citizens’ calls to the police department. Cops were no longer supposed to respond in person to 911 calls regarding vehicle thefts, garage break-ins or crimes in which the victim is “safe and does not need medical attention” and the suspect is not. is “not at the scene and should not return immediately,” according to the 2013 policy.

Those calls would be transferred from 911 to the alternative response section – a change police say would free 44 officers per day to respond to the most serious crimes.

From April 19 to April 30, officers from the Alternative Intervention Section completed 19% of non-urgent police department reports. District cops in the field and at police stations took care of the remaining 81%.

When asked if they would like to see Alternate Response Section officers take a greater share of non-emergency reports, police officers responded only, “The ARS was designed to maximize the capacity of the ministry. react quickly to serious crime and emergency situations and focus on crime and pacing disorder issues.

More than 230 officers were assigned to the unit in late April and May, including 95 officers on limited service.

Some officers stayed in the alternative response section for years, receiving their full police pay.

Constable Thomas Sherry leaves the Cook County Criminal Courts building at 26th Street and California Avenue after a court appearance in 2006.

Constable Thomas Sherry leaves the Cook County Criminal Courts building at 26th Street and California Avenue after a court appearance in 2006.
Brian Jackson / Sun-Times Dossier

One officer, Thomas Sherry, was on duty in the unit for over a decade until the department decided to fire him and suspend him without pay on February 10. He was accused of carrying out illegal searches and filing false reports in 2004, court records. show.

Between 2002 and 2006, Sherry had worked for the now disbanded Special Operations Section, a city-wide unit that made drug and gun arrests. Some officers in the unit were convicted in a federal corruption investigation, but criminal charges against Sherry were dropped in 2009.

Former Police Cmdr. Jacob Alderden, who ran the Central City Center District until he was demoted to captain in early June, is now in charge of the Alternative Response Section. He received the department’s highest honor in 2018 for his actions following a hospital shooting. Police officials will not say why he was demoted, saying it is a “personnel issue”.

Kiama Doyle’s odyssey to report the theft of his SUV.

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