Delta Mayor George Harvie is asking Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth to step in over what he calls E-Comm’s failure to provide necessary call-taking services for the Delta Police Department.
In a letter to Farnworth and E-Comm board chair Doug Campbell dated Dec. 6 and released this week, Harvie says E-Comm has not maintained the service standards outlined in its contract with the DPD, specifically that 88 per cent of emergency calls are answered within 10 seconds and 90 per cent of non-emergency calls within three minutes.
Harvie says long wait times for both emergency and non-emergency calls has led to an unprecedented number of abandoned calls, which lead to inaccurate crime statistics that in turn impact “the adequacy of policing resources, police safety strategies, and crime perceptions.”
Further, he says the situation “has reputational impacts, contributing to the erosion of public trust in adequate and effective policing and the DPD brand.”
Harvie says E-Comm’s “failure to meet service standards impacts public safety in our community and the Province’s mandate to ensure adequate and effective policing.”
“Providing excellence in policing services, including timely response to the citizens who contact the DPD for non-emergency and emergency matters, is a priority for the Delta police board and the DPD. The DPD is built on a foundation of public trust and the expectation that when a citizen calls for service, the DPD will respond quickly. The ‘no call too small’ philosophy runs deep in the core of the DPD and is the platform upon which all team members perform their duties,” Harvie wrote.
As chair of the Delta police board, Harvie is requesting “immediate attention, support and resources” from the ministry to address these “consistent and ongoing challenges.”
In his letter, Harvie says the DPD began hearing from residents in 2019 who complained about a lack of service, both in terms of long wait times and also E-Comm’s refusal to create service calls for matters that the DPD is committed to responding to under its “no call too small” philosophy.
He says DPD management began monitoring call-taking and dispatch data and attempted unsuccessfully to work with E-Comm management to address these issues and produce a viable solution.
In December of 2021, the DPD launched a non-emergency call-taking pilot project to help rectify the situation, with department staff taking non-emergency calls from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. while E-Comm maintained non-emergency service from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
In a press release Thursday (Dec. 22), DPD Chief Dubord said results from the pilot project indicate that the department has been able to provide better service to the community by using an in-house non-emergency call-taking model, taking 7,515 calls for service from January to November of this year.
The release notes that wait times to speak with a DPD call-taker are “minimal” and the department has not yet received any complaints about lengthy wait times during the day, which helps addresses the issue of abandoned non-emergency calls.
“In 2023, we will work toward developing a permanent in-house non-emergency call-taking model, in alignment with the service levels expected by the community,” Dubord said in a press release.
However, the release says the department has not been reimbursed by E-Comm for taking non-emergency calls between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., a function outlined in the DPD’s service agreement.
Meanwhile, Harvie says, the service standard issues remain and have in fact gotten worse over time.
Citing “recent data,” Harvie says seven per cent of all calls E-Comm received for service from the DPD in 2020 were abandoned. The following year, 19 per cent of non-emergency calls were abandoned and two per cent of emergency calls for the DPD went unanswered.
“In the first six months of 2022, nearly 40 per cent of the non-emergency calls to DPD through E-Comm were abandoned,” Harvie wrote, calling the figure “significant and concerning” and noting the rate would be even higher if included the hours DPD staff now take non-emergency calls.
Harvie says the situation in Delta reflects a similar trend seen province-wide, noting E-Comm has publicly acknowledged difficulties with meeting non-emergency call answer targets and its own data has confirmed numerous instances when non-emergency callers wait more than 30 minutes — and sometimes up to five hours — for their call to be answered.
“Effectively, we have lost confidence in the leadership of E-Comm to rectify this long-standing issue which impacts public safety and effective policing,” Harvie wrote.
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