Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

December 12, 2013

Tragic event

Police never sent to respond in case of fatal beating

The beating death last September of Lisa Ann Simmons is even more tragic now that we have learned the Cumberland Police Department was not dispatched to a complaint about the assault.

Information obtained by the Times-News reveals a man made a call to 911 about a possible assault at the woman’s Browning Street home. Police were not made aware of the call, apparently because the caller eventually asked the 911 dispatcher to not send police.

As troubling as that situation is, it is even worse because 911 officials have determined protocol was not violated when the dispatcher failed to dispatch law enforcement officers.

Roger Bennett, Allegany County 911 Division chief, said an extensive review of the situation was made, concluding that protocol was not broken. Even so, Bennett said next time his agency will send police out even if the caller says not to send them.

We would suggest that the 911 agency change its protocol so that such a lapse never occurs in the future. It is better to err on the side of caution and dispatch police, even in instances when complaints are vague or likely to be unfounded.

No one will ever know whether quick dispatch of law enforcement would have allowed officers to intervene before Simmons lost her life at the hands of confessed-murderer Stephen Schleuninger.

It’s a tragic situation from every aspect. But at least changing protocol on future emergency police calls may ensure that such a lapse in judgment will never occur again.

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