Many of you were quite upset by yesterday's story, "Did Palmer PD Fail 911 Call?" Let me preface my remarks by saying they did. Leaving the scene of this call was outrageous and undermines public confidence in our first responders. This lapse needs to be publicly addressed. I spoke to numerous police officers yesterday. To a man, they all agree what happened was atypical. But it's important to remember that it was atypical.
The Palmer Police Department is certainly one of the best in the Lehigh Valley. It is one of just 116 police departments accredited by the Pa. Chiefs of Police Ass'n. Most of the officers are highly regarded. Detective Timothy Ruoff, who is working this homicide, may very well be the best investigator in the Lehigh Valley.
In my business, I search titles for a living. If I make a mistake, and I do, nobody dies. With cops, it's different. They know every time they go on patrol, they are putting their lives on the line. But they are human and make mistakes, too.
After a 911 call from a woman who said there was an emergency and then hung up, two officers responded. At that time, no one knew what that emergency was. It could have been a heart attack, an intruder, a fire, domestic violence or any of an infinite number of possibilities. Failing to make contact with the caller was a serious lapse in judgment, especially since a bald and elderly man could be seen inside the bedroom where the caller's deceased body was found three days later.
To their credit, and knowing that this lapse in judgment would infuriate the public, Palmer Police still made what happened part of the affidavit of probable cause. They made no attempt to cover up what happened. They acted honestly, even though it hurt.
Like most of you, I am disgusted at the failure to bring these officers back to explain more thoroughly what happened. I find the excuses - one on vacation and another injured - unsatisfactory. This is another error. It's too soon to say whether disciplinary action is warranted, but any internal review should include the night supervisor and Chief. That might require some involvement by the Board of Supervisors.
Having said what I did, I need to respond to a comment from one of my readers.
"Remember, the police and 911 will not protect you, it is helpful, but most likely this victim was dead before the police arrived, it seems they screwed up, but the police very seldom are able to stop crime before it happens, mostly just clean up and investigate after the fact. We seem to believe the police can protect us from harm, an illusion."
I completely disagree. I can recite numerous examples of police officers who have saved lives and even delivered babies while responding to emergency calls. No one should hesitate in calling 911 ever.
What happened on July 4 is an aberration. It needs to be addressed, and I am sure that is already happening.