19 Feb 2016

Police defend confusion over 111 calls

6:26 pm on 19 February 2016

Police are defending the confusion and inaction over emergency calls made on the night gang leader Tumanako Tauhore was shot dead in Te Araroa a year ago.

Police cars

Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Court transcripts show two 111 calls were made from the township of Te Araroa on the East Cape, 90 minutes apart.

Operators asked the caller to spell the township's name, asked if it was Te Aroha, asked what street it was on, and what highway it was on - despite the caller saying State Highway 35.

The delays occurred as the incident escalated from a threat, to actual violence - with Tumanako Tauhore shot dead when he went on to a property seeking a man he had had a dispute with.

Transcripts show one caller twice asked to be put through to the sole police officer at Te Araroa police station.

Assistant Police Commissioner for prevention and road policing David Trappitt told Checkpoint with John Campbell in hindsight, there was more that could've been done.

However, he said the initial call to police had no indication from the caller that they wanted police to attend.

"In hindsight I say we can look back and say, yes, that would have been a better course of action," he said.

"But given the fact that officers do have to have time out, judgement calls need to be made as to whether a call should be put through if somebody's just wanting to talk to the local constable, or alternatively send a unit from a nearby town."

Whenever a 111 call was made, Superintendent Trappitt said even a good operator took at least 30 seconds to get a caller's name and location.

"This was actually behind the calls last year which has resulted in the government announcement to put in place caller location for cellphones," he said.

"We do expect that to come out this year. That's not only police, that's all emergency services. So that'll make a huge difference for us."

RNZ News spoke to several people who had made emergency calls and also had issues with operators identifying their location.

Mr Newbury was told by a 111 operator that they couldn't locate him when he told them he was on Hendersons Road, after a confrontation with a gang member.

"After we went through the spelling process, while this guy's climbing over the fence to get me, it turned out that she didn't hear me say Hendersons Road, she thought it was Henderson Road which was in Auckland.

"She berated me for my pronunciation and she's giving me grief, meanwhile I'm backing away from a house so I don't get assaulted."

Robert Bogers saw a pedestrian hit and severely injured by a car a month ago, and immediately called 111.

"I kept saying, 'Look, I'm on Tamaki Drive, near the entrance to the port'.

"The operator had a real problem identifying where that was - there are no street addresses along Tamaki Drive because on the one side there's the sea, on the other side is the railway line."

Mr Bogers said it took three to four minutes to identify the location and was later told by St John that the operator had a training issue.

Rosie Marriott of Hastings also had a problem with location when calling 555 to report a road incident.

"I nearly ran into about 20 cattle on State Highway 2 at Pakipaki what, 20km out or less of Hastings," she said.

"But they were unable to pinpoint my location and I couldn't give them exact landmarks it being a thick fog. But in the end I gave up on it."

Superintendent Trappitt said 75 percent of all calls made to emergency services were from cell phones and call location technology would make a big difference.