D.C. City Council member Nadine Winter (D-Ward 6), who was injured in a street robbery near her home in October, yesterday called for an overhaul of the 911 emergency telephone system, which was malfunctioning on the day she was assaulted.
Speaking to about 50 city residents at a community forum on crime, Winter said that her experience confirmed numerous complaints about the ineffectiveness of the 911 system. She also criticized Police Chief Maurice Turner for attempting to "justify" the situation by saying a computer that handles the emergency calls had been down for repairs.
At the Washington Community Fellowship Church at Ninth Street and Maryland Avenue NE Winter told of a four-page letter from Turner in which he explained that calls are handled manually when the 911 computer is down and that slows response time.
Turner cited problems of "jamming" within the C&P telephone lines, through which 911 calls are routed.
Winter, however, said there was "no excuse" for not having an operable emergency telephone system. "As much as I love the police chief," Winter said, "I think that was the most asinine letter I have ever received."
Winter, 59, was beaten and knocked to the ground Oct. 24 as she struggled with a robber outside her Northeast Washington home. Police have arrested two suspects in connection with the assault.
After the attack, Winter said, neighbors began dialing 911 to get a police response, but they had no success. She said neighbors then called her office, and two staff members called 911, also without success.
One of the staff members then spotted Mayor Marion Barry walking through the District building and asked him to call 911, but he, too, had difficulty, Winter said.
When contact finally was made, the person taking the calls took several more before passing the information to a dispatcher, Winter said.
"The manual process used that day is laborious and outdated and jeopardizes the safety of D.C. citizens requiring immediate medical and police attention. The inability of other callers to reach 911 at all is an absolute disgrace," Winter said.