A San Diego Police cruiser. Photo by Chris Stone.

Updated at 11:05 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 4

During a five-week period last year, 23 percent of the 911 calls to San Diego police dispatchers were accidental “pocket calls,” Chief Shelley Zimmerman told the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee Wednesday.

She said that worked out to around 12,000 calls to the emergency line during the period in September and October.

“We made an attempt to call back every one of those individuals and not one of them was an emergency,” Zimmerman said.

She said a proposed policy change regarding the calls — which are colloquially known as “butt dials” — would save the dispatching staff 2.8 hours per day.

A Federal Communications Commission report released in October said authorities in New York and Anchorage estimated that roughly 70 percent of their emergency calls came from wireless devices, and half of those were inadvertent.

The report from Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said dispatchers were “inundated” with such calls, creating a “huge waste of resources.”

According to San Diego City Council members, one of the biggest complaints they get is how long citizens are left on hold on calls to the SDPD because of the dispatchers’ workload. The dispatching staff is short 25 employees, but two prospective workers are in the process of being hired, according to Zimmerman.

Changes to dispatcher schedules that should lead to an improvement are due to be implemented soon, she said.

–City News Service

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