CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The response by the Cincinnati Police Department and its Emergency Communications Center to a homicide in 2017 has similarities to the response the day a teen died in his minivan despite twice calling 911, a memo obtained by FOX19 NOW shows.
"Had we been aware of this and had proper action been taken, we could expect that Kyle Plush would be alive today," Councilman David Mann said Friday.
The 16-year-old was found dead April 10 inside the family's gold Honda Odyssey van in a parking lot at Seven Hills School. His father, not police, located him and it was about five hours after Kyle placed two 911 calls pleading for help and providing specific details in his final call on his location and description of his vehicle.
Kyle was asphyxiated due to chest compression when he became trapped underneath a third-row, rear seat of his van, the Hamilton County Coroner has ruled.
Mayor John Cranley has criticized the dispatchers who took Kyle's calls and the two police officers who did not get out of their car when they arrived at the school to search for him.
"The councilman said it, didn't he? If we had the benefit of 20/20 hindsight," said Sgt. Dan Hils, the leader of the union that represents Cincinnati police. "Well, we did not and the officers thought they were looking for a non-life-threatening situation of a woman with car locks malfunctioning. The politicians who continue to falsely accuse wrongdoing are likely exasperating the Plush family's grief."
The memo shows a review of the response by dispatchers and police officers to a call about a Jan. 12, 2017 shooting in Walnut Hills that ultimately was determined to be a homicide of 23-year-old man "indicates serious service issues occurred in all facets of the call."
The police department's second-in-command at the time, Executive Police Chief David Bailey, wrote the memo to Police Chief Eliot Isaac on Jan. 21, 2017.
He ticked off a long list of concerns - ones that closely mirror the Plush case:
- Emergency Communications Section (ECS) was unable to enter the information in a timely manner into the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) System
- ECS could not easily determine the correct location of the initial call. ECS interpret the information given did not accurately code the call
- Responding officers did not properly investigate the scene.
- Responding officers did not attempt to confer with complainant
- It took responding officers over one hour to locate the deceased victim
- And finally, despite a shift Lieutenant and two Sergeants working, none intervened in what was a highly unusual situation.
"To summarize the incident, a construction worker performing roadwork on Interstate 71 observed two cars pull up in front of 32 Washington Terrace," Bailey wrote.
"Two people exited the vehicles and went behind the buildings. A short time later, the complainant heard a gunshot and one person came running out, got into a vehicle, and fled the scene.
"Despite the confusing information entered by the various call takers at ECS, the main focus of this call should have been an independent witness called police to report something occurred behind the buildings, most likely involving a gun.
"Yet the officers arrived and did not investigate the scene which if they had, they would have easily located the victim who had just been shot.
"Additionally, they would have located the witnesses who could have given a fresh description which could potentially have assisted in locating any fleeing suspect vehicle(s).
"Although the officers could have provided much better basic police response services, the supervisors should have either at a minimum monitored the situation or ideally actually responded to direct the investigation.
"Sadly, there is no indication they were even aware of the situation and this seems to be a recurring theme with some of our field Sergeants and Lieutenants.
"I think it would be appropriate for District Four and ECS to investigate and make specific recommendations on how to improve service delivery and supervision."
We have learned two officers were verbally counseled after the incident.
A police spokesman referred us to City Hall when we asked for comment on the memo Friday.
We put in a public records request for further documents related to the memo and the case.
Another memo we obtained shows police supervisors also identified problems with dispatch response in 2016.
A lieutenant alerted the chief to an allegation of "lack of proper service."
The 911 center received three calls for service about a naked woman found in the rear of a Bramble Avenue residence in Madisonville at about 6 a.m. on Sept. 10, 2016, according to the memo written by Lt. Dennis Swingley. He was assigned to investigate the situation by the 911 center commander, Captain Jeff Butler.
The allegation: "Although the unidentified woman alleged she escaped from a neighboring house after being held against her will, personnel from the Emergency Communications Section failed to gather essential information and dispatch appropriate city resources to determine the welfare of the female and the circumstances surrounding her allegation."
After Swingley looked into it, he concluded the two dispatchers were found to be in violation of one rule related to work standards, the memo shows. They are required to verify information, properly document calls for service and dispatch officers accordingly.
Swingley recommended written reprimands for both dispatchers.
That was approved by Butler and Bailey, the memo shows.
It was not clear, however, late Friday if the reprimands still remain in the dispatchers' personnel files after they filed union grievances.
Bailey was ousted in March by then-City Manager Harry Black. He was forced to resign, according to the FOP president.
Butler has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, Black,the mayor and police chief. New allegations added in April allege Isaac turned a blind eye to felony theft for "systematic abuse of police overtime."
State Auditor David Yost's office is now looking into those allegations and one of misuse of 911 funds at the request of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.
Auditors are completing that work as part of the city's regular annual audit, which is underway now, Yost told FOX19 NOW.
Black left the city in April, ultimately over problems with the 911 center that lost him his majority support on council.
Cranley and other elected officials have called for a review of the city's emergency communications center, which has struggled with problems for years.
Bailey and Butler were among a group of former and current employees who testified about issues with the 911 center during a lengthy public hearing at City Hall in light of Kyle's death.
Problems have included low staffing, inadequate training, system-wide failures resulting in the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system going down, police radios not working and cell phone call routing leaving some calls unanswered. City officials changed the subcontractor, but problems remain.
The city also has moved its troubled 911 center from police oversight to civilian management back to the police department with a revolving door of several various managers.
Earlier this week, daily management of the facility was changed from police to civilian control yet again.
The acting city manger abruptly announced Jayson Dunn, who heads the city's technology department, was replacing a veteran police captain who was just assigned in March to command the 911 center.
The city is expected to select an independent contractor soon to take an in-depth look at the current organizational structure of the 911 center and help the city decide once and for all whether it should be placed under police or civilian control.
Council also recently earmarked nearly a half million dollars to make improvements at the 911 center and hire more employees.
They have been meeting every other week to publicly discuss the Plush case and the police investigation into it, which left more questions and answers.
Kyle's father has been asking several questions and urging accountability from the city and its police department.
All failures the the day his son died must be identified and addressed so another family doesn't lose a child, he has said.
The Plush case is expected to come up again at City Hall on Monday at the 9 a.m. Law and Public Safety Committee.