Note: The video above reflects the top news headlines from the morning of July 26, 2023.
LUBBOCK, Texas — An active shooter full-scale exercise in late May would have resulted in additional simulated fatalities – victims who could have been saved – because of reasons revealed in public records when the City of Lubbock provided the response to an open records request by EverythingLubbock.com.
Official records made available on Thursday afternoon (July 20) described problems, including some in the Lubbock Police Department’s 911 call dispatch center.
The city manager (see his comments further below) said some changes have already been made to 911 while others are still to come.
- There were 183,436 calls to the LPD 911 center in 2022.
- 30,017 of those calls to 911 were abandoned by the caller before a dispatcher answered (which is more than 16%).
- The dispatch center called back 26,448 (more than 88% of abandoned calls) in 2022.
- From June 2022 through June 2023, the average wait time for a 911 call ranged from 7 to 9 seconds.
An Overwhelmed Dispatch Center
The full-scale active threat exercise was held in late May at Terra Vista Middle School in the Frenship ISD. LPD and other agencies participated roughly one year after the real-world deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen students and two teachers lost their lives in Uvalde.
The open records request revealed Police Chief Floyd Mitchell challenged City of Lubbock Director of Emergency Management Joe Foster Moudy for documenting 911 dispatch center staffing issues.
Moudy was preparing an after-action report in late June – roughly a month after the middle school exercise. Moudy documented in an email that he intended to include in an official report that an “overwhelmed dispatch center” caused a 3-minute delay in information getting to first responders during the active-shooter training.
The proposed documentation said: There were also numerous calls reported by role-players regarding injured students in the library. The library was where the shooting started and was the first room when responders were entering the building. Due to missed information, and challenges with command and accountability, first responders did not enter the library until thirty-eight (38) minutes after the shooting started. In a real situation, this would have resulted in several additional fatalities that could have otherwise been saved.
The proposed documentation also said, “During the exercise, there were several discussions regarding the number of vacancies in LPD dispatch and that limitations on the number of dispatchers had been implemented as a budget control measure.”
The Chief Writes Back
“I do not believe that 90% of the information contained within this email is relevant to the ‘exercise’ operation and therefore should not be contained within an official document,” Mitchell wrote in response to Moudy.
“Most of the information deals with personnel and administrative views on how communications should be staffed and operated by those who have little to no knowledge of how calls are routed in and handled on a daily basis or during a real-world critical incident,” Mitchell chided.
“This information needs to be discussed in person and not handled via email,” Chief Mitchell concluded in his response to the Director of Emergency Management.
EverythingLubbock.com first reported trouble with the 911 call center on July 7, quoting a statement from Mayor Tray Payne. A few days later, EverythingLubbock.com was first to report LPD had more than 30,000 abandoned 911 calls in 2022, which had more than doubled from 2020.
The Lubbock Emergency Communications District offered the following definition: “Abandoned calls are calls in which the caller hung up before the call was answered.”
More than 88 percent of the abandoned calls in 2022 resulted in a call back.
We Requested Comment From the Chief
Despite repeated requests since July 7, Chief Mitchell chose not to participate in an on-camera interview with KAMC, KLBK and EverythingLubbock.com. Instead, LPD said written questions could be submitted. Questions submitted in writing on Friday were still unanswered as of Wednesday morning.
On July 11, Mitchell appeared in a pre-produced social media video in which he made a presentation with no interviewer to ask questions.
Mitchell admitted in the video that he lowered the minimum staffing (from nine dispatchers to seven) on duty at any given time. The change happened on May 6. Mitchell said he set the minimum to eight on July 1 “based on recommendations.” The reduction happened as numbers were on track (if the trend continued) for just as many abandoned 911 calls in 2023 as 2022.
A Real-World Case Was Reviewed
The open records request also revealed a “missed” (abandoned) 911 after a baby was accidentally shot in March 2022 at a home in North Lubbock. The child later died.
“When the family tried to call 911, no one answered the phone,” an internal police memo said. The child was taken by private vehicle to University Medical Center and died from blood loss.
LPD reviewed the case and found in that particular instance, the 911 call center was above minimum staffing. All policies and procedures were followed. There were multiple 911 calls for the same incident. EMS and Lubbock Fire Rescue were both dispatched about two minutes after the first call.
- Lubbock Mayor says issue with 911 should get ‘better’ not ‘worse’
- LPD’s abandoned 911 calls doubled in two years hitting more than 30,000
- LPD Chief defends 911 after report of 30,000 abandoned calls
- Fresh criticism of Lubbock Police over abandoned 911 calls from city council
- Lubbock firefighters speak out on “ongoing failure” in 911 dispatch systems
The open records request indicated concerns over the 911 dispatch center were raised prior to the mayor and three councilmembers making public statements demanding an improved 911 response. The mayor said an additional $7.4 million was allocated to LPD in the current budget cycle. He said issues with 911 should get better, not worse.
The Lubbock Professional Police Association also made a brief public statement on social media on July 11, saying in part that “LPPA was approached by LPD dispatch employees who voiced concerns and worries that the public and officers’ safety were going to be severely impacted while having to further decrease their already understaffed positions.”
The Lubbock Professional Firefighters on Friday went so far as to call out “major inadequacies in LPD’s 911 dispatch system.”
The firefighters’ association also said, “This not only jeopardizes the safety of our first responders, but also compromises our ability to provide timely and life-saving assistance to those in need.”
The City Manager Expresses Confidence
“Lubbock Police Department Dispatch employees do a tremendous job to ensure our 911 system works and that when help is needed, it is on the way,” said City Manager Jarrett Atkinson. Atkinson spoke by phone with EverythingLubbock.com and then also provided a written statement.
“I cannot overstate my appreciation for their work or my confidence in what they do. We can be better in any service we provide, and 911 is no exception,” Atkinson said. “Chief Mitchell is working directly with our senior Dispatch team and changes have already been instituted to make us better and more improvements are in the works.”
“The city council and city management have made tremendous investments in public safety and will no doubt continue to do so. The city council begins their work on our proposed Fiscal Year 2024 budget Monday and both current and ongoing improvements to our dispatch system will be discussed in more detail,” Atkinson said.
As of Tuesday, the after-action report on the full-scale threat exercise was still in draft form. We were invited to inquire about it again at a later time.