Cincinnati 911 center management goes from police to civilian after teen's death

Kyle Plush (Photo: Provided)
Kyle Plush (Photo: Provided)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The daily management of Cincinnati's embattled 911 center is changing from police to civilian control after the death of of 16-year-old Kyle Plush.

Jayson Dunn, who heads the city's technology department, will temporarily assume day-to-day management of the Emergency Communications Center (ECC), according to a memo from Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney.

The memo was released to FOX19 NOW Tuesday after we contacted city and police officials to confirm the development.

Dunn will replace Cincinnati Police Captain James Gramke, commander of the emergency communications center since March.

Gramke informed his staff Tuesday he was transferred effective immediately.

Dunn's new role starts Wednesday.

"As a City Government, we remain united in our efforts to ensure out Emergency Communications Center (ECC) operates efficiently and optimizes productivity. This is essential to guaranteeing the ECC works properly every time it is called upon," Duhaney's memo reads.

"To this end, the City will soon select an independent contractor to take an in-depth look at the current organizational structure of the ECC and assist the City in making holistic decisions, regarding operations, with an explicit goal of improving the overall customer service to all those who call 911.

"To ensure the success of this project, it is important to have our best resources on hand."

Dunn is uniquely qualified to lead the operational and technology aspects of this role, Duhaney wrote.

Before Dunn began working at the city, he was director of Hamilton County's emergency communications center, where he oversaw 911 call taking and dispatching functions. The county's 911 center serves more than 100 political subdivisions, according to Duhaney's memo.

Dunn also has worked as an IT manager of the city's emergency radio program and as a computer analyst for the Cincinnati Fire Department.

He holds a master's degree in business administration and is certified by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) as an Emergency Number Professional (ENP).

He also has been a featured author in multiple emergency communication trade publications.l

"He has my utmost confidence," Duhaney wrote.

City leaders launched a probe into the response from law enforcement including the 911 operators who took two 911 calls from Kyle when the teen became trapped by a seat in his minivan at Seven Hills School in Madisonville back on April 10.

Cincinnati's former city manager, Harry Black, ultimately lost his job over issues with the 911 center in the wake of Plush's death.

City leaders have since earmarked nearly a half million dollars to make changes and improvements at the 911 center.

Duhaney also has pledged to get a new mapping system in police vehicles, one the fire department already has, after it came out during the Plush death investigation that could have greatly assisted police attempting to find the teen's van, but it remains unclear when that will occur.

Councilwoman Amy Murray said the change will allow city leaders to determine once and for all whether the 911 center should be permanently placed under police or civilian control.

"We've had new people on a regular basis responsible for the ECC, and so I think that's difficult when you have someone new coming in," Murray said. "They want to make some of their own changes, or put their own mark on it and that's just hard because we really need to, as a city, look at what is the best system, what's the best technology and run it that way, instead of just changing leadership every year or two."

In March, documents released to FOX19 NOW showed alleged mismanagement within the emergency communication center for years amid a revolving door of managers.

The 911 center, traditionally run by the police department, was moved to civilian control after issues erupted with the fire department, and then reverted back to police control in recent years.

At the same time, the 911 center struggled with a plethora of problems including staffing, inadequate training and cell phone call routing leaving some calls unanswered.

After Plush's death, past and current 911 center and police employees testified about these problems at a public hearing before City Council.

In particular, they outlined a long list of ongoing issues with the new CAD (computer aided dispatch) system that has had so many problems the city changed subcontractors last year. The center also has added new police radios and a new 911 system and struggled with a cell phone calls being dropped.

The employees also described a "toxic" environment in the 911 center and said staffing at times was down 50 percent.

The day Kyle died, the dispatch center's CAD was down again, forcing dispatchers to use a backup system.

Gramke, who began his career as a dispatcher nearly 30 years ago, took over supervision at the 911 center just weeks before Plush died, and was already trying to address problems.

He apologized to the Plush family at the public hearing, said he would take responsibility and pledged to do what he could to fix the system.

He will now work in the police department''s patrol bureau administration, according to Duhaney's memo.

"I thank Captain Gramke for his contributions and tireless work to guide ECC during this critical time of transition and know that his experience and fresh perspective will be welcomed in his new position within the Police Department."

The leader of the union who represents Cincinnati police, was taken aback Tuesday at Gramke's abrupt transfer and is speaking out against it.

"I have received over a dozen calls from the employees at the ECC that are in shock about this terrible decision," Sgt. Dan Hils wrote in a Facebook post on "Support the Blue in Cincy."

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