March 28, 2007 Edition

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WR files complaint
with 911 board

Lawrence County Judge Alex Latham, who serves as chairman for the 911 board, addresses Walnut Ridge Mayor Michelle Rogers and Walnut Ridge Police Chief John Lamb at a meeting held Friday morning.
Amber Adams
Staff Writer

Walnut Ridge Mayor Michelle Rogers filed a formal complaint with the Lawrence County Communications 911 Board on Friday morning during a meeting at the courthouse.

Rogers said that there have been problems with the communications center for a while, but specifically targeted a recent incident involving a Walnut Ridge police officer, saying that the situation was not handled properly.

A copy of the tape of Officer Jeff Franks' call to the communications center was played for the group, which included board members Dean Davis, Bob Smith, Jim Jones, Sheriff Dan Ellison, County Judge Alex Latham, Chief of Police John Lamb, Rogers and Emergency Management Services Coordinator Steve Jones.

Rogers noted that during the incident, dispatch never checked in with the officer.

"Not once did dispatch radio Franks and check on him," she said, "even after a citizen called 911 to report gunshots fired in the area."

According to the dispatcher's log, Franks radioed in to say that he was out at 605 West Poplar. Three minutes later, he radioed in requesting backup, saying that he had been assaulted and the suspect was fleeing on foot.

"Dispatch called for any available city unit," said Lamb. "He should have known [Franks] was the only officer on duty at that time."

Mayor Rogers and city council members as well as members of the WRPD voiced concerns about how the entire situation was handled.

A Walnut Ridge representative said dispatch should radio to check on officers every two minutes, but Ellison said a five-minute check-in is protocol.

"I have 25 years of experience in law enforcement," said Jim Jones, "and I think the situation was handled correctly. I don't know what you would have accomplished by calling to check in."

A Lawrence County officer did respond to the call. His arrival took several minutes because he was working a fatality accident in Hoxie.

Glendal Floyd, a citizen, addressed the board saying that a lack of supervision and training are the major problems at the communications center.

"Our dispatchers are ABCO certified," said Steve Jones. "We are the only dispatch center in Arkansas that has that training."

Discussion of the problem led to Rogers saying that the city will pull out of the program if necessary. She gave the board 30 days to take steps to correct the problems.

Lamb planned to meet with Steve Jones to discuss protocol for the city and training for the dispatchers.

"I think a 911 center would be a good thing, if it worked properly," said Rogers, "but this one does not.

We're paying $57,000 a year on services we don't receive."

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