Spokane Valley PD, Spokane Co. Sheriff’s Office can now listen to live 911 calls

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — Every minute counts in an emergency. Getting police on scene quicker could mean the difference between a life saved and a life lost. New technology will let Spokane Valley Police and sheriff’s deputies have a faster response.

Deputies and police officers will now get to hear live 911 calls as they’re happening. They can then take action immediately, something they’ve never been able to do before.

The Spokane Valley Police Department is the first agency in the northwest to use the fairly new program called Live 911. Police normally get their calls and information from dispatch, which takes a minute or two to gather information to relay over to authorities.

Law enforcement would then get their information through their computer systems, CAD. With Live 911, they hear the calls in real time.

Sgt. Dave Westlake, with Spokane Valley Police, said he used the new software last week in a domestic violence call.

He said he was within a mile of the call when the information came in from dispatch.

“I was able to listen to the caller and the stress in her voice and how she was shaking to fully understand the depth of her fear in this incident,” Westlake said. “That’s not the type of stuff that gets relayed over radio… I knew it was probably a bigger emergency than just a domestic violence argument.”

Domestic violence calls are one of the more “tenuous” calls they get, said Deputy Mike Sullivan, with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Sullivan remembers hearing a domestic violence call over the new system before dispatch reached them.

“It was clear it was something we needed to go to,” he said. “We were able to respond to it, at least a couple minutes faster than we would’ve normally responded to the call.”

Officers with Spokane Valley Police have been using the technology for months as a pilot. Sullivan says it helps in some cases. They have to sift through some of the calls as they’re happening, but there are times it was helpful.

“We’ve had times where one of the ones that told me, it was a house fire and they got there before the fire department because they were hearing it live and they were helping get the family out immediately,” said Police Chief David Ellis of Spokane Valley PD. Ellis is also the undersheriff for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Not only will law enforcement hear the calls and know what’s going on immediately, they’ll be able to see the person’s location even if the caller is on the move. This will help eliminate any other miscommunications between the caller and dispatch.

In the new system, while the caller is on the phone with dispatch, law enforcement can rewind and listen back to the beginning. While they can listen to the calls live, once the person hangs up the phone, authorities will not be able to go back and listen to it again. At that point, they’ll have to go through dispatch.

After months of testing out the system, Live 911 is rolling out to all Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies this week.

“I think a lot of agencies are looking at us being the first in the northwest. They’re looking at us to see what our results are and how it works out, and I’ve had talks with chiefs in the area and that kind of stuff and there is something they’re interested in, too,” Ellis said.

The police department says the system costs $6,000 per year.

“We felt that for the minor monetary cost for us, this was a huge advancement for us,” he said. “If it allows us to even get to a call a minute quicker, it would mean a lot in certain circumstances.”