Police chief Bob Rich of Abbotsville in Canada apologized Friday because his service did not follow standard protocol when it took almost 12 hours to respond to a 911 call. The woman who had placed the call was found dead.
Abbotsford police concluded that although the dispatcher did not believe there was an emergency underway at the woman's apartment, standard procedures were not followed and an officer should have been sent to respond. Hendrikje Priester was discovered in her apartment on the morning of March 25, the victim of what police described as a domestic homicide. An investigation was launched after then-Abbotsford police chief Ian Mackenzie learned of the incident.
Rich, who was deputy chief with the Vancouver police department until taking the top position in Abbotsford in July, said he met with Priester's family to report the findings and to apologize.
"It was very difficult for them to go through all the details with them, so I appreciated how open they were to taking the facts and to understand what had occurred that night," Rich said. "We obviously are doing everything we can to ensure that this doesn't happen again." He apologized again to the whole community.
On the night of March 24, a dispatcher received a 911 hang-up call from Priester's home. When the operator called back, no one answered. On a third attempt, the dispatcher had a conversation with a man and determined that police response was not required.
"She did her best to find out what was going on... which is exactly what we ask them to do," Rich said. But he added that she still should have dispatched an officer. He said she has since been disciplined and reassigned to another department.
Rich said it is impossible to determine what the outcome might have been had officers been dispatched immediately. "That's the horrible question we're left with," he said. Rich said details of the conversation and the investigation would not be publicly available because the homicide is still subject to court proceedings.
Priester's common-law husband was charged with second-degree murder. However, a stay of proceedings has been ordered pending further evidence from police. Rich said he was unaware of a similar situation occurring in the past in Abbotsford. He said the department receives tens of thousands of 911 calls each year, but officers do not respond to all of them. "The operator's No. 1 job is to determine when a police officer should be dispatched and when there shouldn't be a response." (info from The Vancouver Sun)