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N4T Investigators: Interim director working towards solutions at Tucson 9-1-1 center

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TUCSON (KVOA) - When you dial 9-1-1 every second counts. 

But, as the News 4 Tucson Investigators discovered more than two years ago, those second were sometimes turning into minutes.

As the News 4 Tucson Investigators reported back in January, a third-party report found working conditions inside Tucson's public safety communications center were a mess.

The center's director resigned just days before a progress report was supposed to happen. 

Now we have learned that a delayed call response may have potentially been a factor in a death in Marana last December.

On Dec. 28, the Marana Police communications department forwarded a cardiac arrest call to Tucson's 9-1-1 communications center.

Marana police officers were immediately dispatched to the scene.

However, between 3:45 and 4:15 p.m., Tucson's 911 center took 140 calls in 30-minutes. During that time Marana personnel waited about three minutes​ for the 9-1-1 center to answer their call.

Even worse, nearly 34% of the Tucson center's staff were out due to sick, pandemic, and bereavement leave.

Despite CPR and the best efforts of first-responders, the cardiac patient did not survive.

"Maybe a quicker answer would not have affected the outcome of that particular incident, but saying that, no call to the 9-1-1 center should go unanswered for three minutes." said Tucson Mayor Regina Romero.

As the News 4 Tucson Investigators first reported, following a highly critical third-party review last October the head of the 9-1-1 communications center resigned.

Tucson Police Captain Chad Kasmar is now leading the Public Safety Communications center on an interim basis, as the city looks for ways to turnaround the troubled facility.

"Time is of the essence. I've lost three employees in January; I've lost three employees in February. so, U just want to be clear - if it takes us 60 days or 90 days to come up with a plan, that's another ten employees that will no longer work here." Kasmar told Tucson's mayor and city council.

We sent a public records request to Maran Police for more information about what happened back on Dec. 28, and we are waiting to hear back.  

Meanwhile, Tucson City Manager Michael Ortega is also expected to give the mayor and city council an update on progress at the center in the weeks ahead.

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham is an Investigative Producer for KVOA News 4 Tucson. He is a three time Edward R. Murrow award winner, native Tucsonan, and a proud Arizona Wildcat.

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