PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A woman calls 911, police respond but leave the scene before ever talking to her, the results are tragic.
It happened on New Year’s Eve in Larimer when Ka’Sandra Wade called for help.
It also happened on Feb. 2, 1988, on Thomas Boulevard in Point Breeze when a woman was raped by an intruder after she called emergency dispatch for help.
The details are eerily similar.
The woman reports an intruder but her call ends abruptly. Police officers are dispatched to a burglary in progress, but are never told that the woman called from her home or that the call had been cut short.
“Certainly, the information taken by the call taker not being put out in the field started a chain of events that compounded one another,” former safety director Glenn Cannon said at the time.
Six officers searched outside the house but never went in, never spoke with the woman. Seeing a broken pane of glass in the locked backdoor, they assumed that the burglar had come and gone. So, they left too.
“You make assumptions from things you see at the scene. The assumption that they made was that the burglary in progress was unsuccessful,” said late Chief Ralph Pampena.
The intruder was holding the woman at knifepoint; and when the police left, he raped her. In the days that followed, there were calls for firings.
“People make mistakes, and I’m not sure that termination is the appropriate response,” Cannon said.
After the woman sued, the city paid her a settlement of $137,000.
Two police officers and three dispatchers were suspended and procedural changes were mandated.
Dispatchers with 911 needed to relay more specific facts to the police. The police in turn were urged to make direct contact with 911 callers when responding to requests for help.
KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan asked current Safety Director Mike Huss if those findings and recommendations will come to bear in the Wade investigation.
Sheehan: “Anything that was done then that wasn’t followed now?”
Huss: “We’re looking at all aspects, and prior calls and other investigation may be part of that.”
Every service call is different and in Pittsburgh, police are trained to use their discretion, but it’s hoped that the bureau will learn from this latest incident as it did back in 1988.