Madison police said Thursday a 911 call was placed from 21-year-old Brittany Zimmermann’s cell phone the day of her homicide.
That call, however, was not responded to, police acknowledged.
Police Chief Noble Wray said the Madison Police Department was not notified of the call from the 911 center but the contents of the call reveal an officer should have been dispatched.
“It would be accurate to state that there is evidence contained in the call, which should have resulted in a Madison police officer being dispatched,” Wray said at a Thursday afternoon press conference. “That would have been consistent with Madison Police Department policy as well as national 911 standards.”
Wray, however, would not disclose the time of the call, the duration of it, if anything was audible nor if it was actually Zimmermann who placed the call. Therefore, it is unclear whether the call was made near the time of Zimmermann’s killing or even if it was a call for help.
During their initial investigation April 2, the day Zimmermann was killed, police discovered the 911 call and notified Dane County’s 911 command center.
However, 911 Director Joe Norwick said in a statement the call from Zimmermann’s phone was a “hang-up call,” most of which are not routinely responded to.
Norwick quickly pointed out that 115 hang-up calls were made April 2, 83 of them from cell phones. He said police are not dispatched to all of these but “the 911 Center has notified Madison Police Department on several occasions that it is willing and able to immediately begin dispatching officers to all these types of calls.”
Wray asked for a 911 Center internal investigation of the call and contradicted Norwick by saying the call was not actually a hang-up call nor an intentionally erroneous or accidental call.
Neither Wray nor Norwick would officially acknowledge that any mistakes were made. Wray did not say if police believe whether a response to Zimmermann’s call could have saved her life.
According to a January 24, 2007, memo from Assistant Police Chief Randall Gaber, upgrades to Dane County’s 911 technology allow dispatchers to see the name, phone number and location of all cellular calls placed.
However, in another contradiction, Norwick said such technology cannot provide precise locations.
But Madison police policy states when the 911 Center receives a hang-up call — from a landline or cell phone — the dispatcher should place one call back to the number. When the call was made from Zimmermann’s phone, the 911 dispatcher hung up to respond to two other phone calls and failed to immediately call Zimmermann’s phone back.
Additionally, police policy states, “If at any time a 911 cell call is received and the dispatcher has reason to believe that police services are needed, appropriate police resources shall be dispatched to the area the cell phone call was made from.”
Given the facts Wray laid out, it appears that this policy was not followed.
Ald. Eli Judge, District 8, sits on the Public Safety Review Board for the city of Madison and said there have been issues with Dane County’s emergency response before.
“From my experience, we’ve had dissatisfaction with the 911 Center in the past,” Judge said.
While Judge said he is upset over what happened with this call, an investigation should find exactly what went wrong and who is to blame.
“It’s pretty obvious that something went wrong,” Judge said. “And I really hope that we can find out what that was as quickly as possible.”
Both Wray and Norwick held their press conferences following an Isthmus news report printed in Thursday’s morning’s edition.
Police have not named any suspects in the Zimmermann case, and Wray would not go into any other details on the progress of the investigation.
“This department has not and will not lose sight on what is most important in this case, and that is finding a person or persons responsible for the murder of Brittany Sue Zimmermann,” Wray said.
At this Saturday’s Mifflin Block Party, friends of Zimmermann will be holding a fundraiser to support the scholarship fund set up in the former University of Wisconsin junior’s memory. Friends will be in front of Planned Parenthood at 415 W. Mifflin St. all day.