The Chula Vista Police Department is once again looking into the future of law enforcement.
The department was the first in the country to regularly use drones to respond to emergencies. Now, CVPD is the first police department in the country to give its officers the ability to listen in on incoming 911 calls.
CVPD Lt. Don Redmond said the department is now testing a computer program called Live 911 which allows officers to listen live to emergency phone calls that come from within their immediate area.
The system allows the officer to hear details that may not make it into a computer report, Lt. Redmond said. It also gives them a head start in the direction of a potential emergency, and lets officers hear the tone of the call.
“Live 911 gives the responding officer the ability to feel the emotion,” said Agent Matt Hardesty, a CVPD officer who now pilots one of the city’s first responder drones.
“With this program, I’m actually hearing real time, or very, very close to real time, 911 calls coming in,” said Agent Hardesty. “We’re getting there sometimes minutes ahead of we ever would have gone if we waited for a 911 dispatcher.”
Lt. Redmond manages the 911 Dispatch Center. He said traditionally, a 911 operator inserts a caller’s emergency information into a computer then a police dispatcher alerts an officer in the field. That process can take up to a couple of minutes.
Redmond said Live 911 was the brainchild of CVPD Captain Fritz Reber three years ago.
“And he said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the officers on patrol could hear live stream of 911 calls coming in?’” said Redmond.
The now-retired Capt. Reber worked with a company called Higher Ground to develop the program and CVPD was the first law enforcement agency in the country given a chance to put Live 911 to use.
The drone pilots have been using it for weeks. Two patrol officers have been testing it for less than two weeks, but Redmond sees it expanding department-wide very soon.
“This is huge for our community and for the safety of our officers,” said Redmond.
“I can see this thing going nationwide with police agencies wanting it,” said Hardesty.