I am going to play Jeremiah Wright here and say that the chickens have come home to roost. (God bless America!)
I am, of course, referring to the screw-up at the county's 9-1-1 emergency center, which received a call from Brittany Zimmermann's cell phone that either went dead or on which no one spoke. Madison police say there was evidence but aren't saying what. Were there sounds of a scuffle? In any event, the 9-1-1 center did not call back, contrary to policy.
It does appear that the poor, harried operator should be cut some slack. He or she immediately received two more emergency calls and simply forgot. Emergency call center Joe Norwick's actions after that, in not immediately informing city police that they received the call, is another matter.
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is now playing the blame game, suggesting that if only she had more taxes on cell and landline telephone users this might never have happened. But she always seems to have money to purchase more conservation acreage.
The Wisconsin State Journal's Pat Simmes does some good reporting in Sunday's edition:
Because of population growth, the number of dispatchers per 10,000 residents has decreased and is now slightly below levels in 2004.
Indeed, Kathleen Falk budgeted $5,488,130 for public safety communications this year. That's actually a small decrease from the actual 2007 expenditure of $5,491,768.
Same story with the sheriff's department budget. The department spent $60,349,281 last year but Falk recommended about $1.5 million less this year: $58,921,235. (The County Board settled on $59,086,435.)
That reduction is said to be the savings realized from quadrupling the number of jail inmates released on ankle bracelets -- up to 200 from 50 just two years ago. These devices, which use GPS technology, are supposed to enable the county to quit sending inmates to jails in other counties (because our jail is overcrowded).
I have been frustrated that Falk and her liberal majority on the board will not consider expanding a jail that was purposely built smaller than needed and was overcrowded within two years of its completion in 1994.
A study conducted by a Berkeley, Cal., firm last year indicates that Dane County's jail space is already 37 percent below the statewide average per capita. Nor does it take into account that the county will add over 100,000 people in the next 22 years.
Presumably, candidates for the ankle bracelets will come out of the Huber work-release center. But that's minimum security. And, in any event, those folks are released during the day to a workplace and then are locked up at night. The night time is when people get into trouble.
The Dane County Criminal Justice System Assessment released last summer found that these prisoners being returned to Dane County averaged 6.5 criminal charges each -- felonies and misdemeanors. Where will they go?
Oh well, we fought that battle in the April 1 election and lost. But I'm predicting there are more chickens out there and they are looking for places to roost.
Would it have done any good?
But let's say police were dispatched immediately to Brittany's W. Doty Street apartment. The Madison police headquarters itself is only five blocks away. More likely, a squad car already on patrol -- perhaps farther away -- would have responded.
How likely is it that the attack could have been prevented? It seems that the young woman was already under attack, or that it was imminent, when she placed the call. Given the savagery of that attack, would she have been found alive? Jason Shepard describes "multiple stab wounds to the chest and blunt force trauma to the head."
Calling the emergency number is sound policy after an accident. But would you call the number to prevent an accident?
I am going to quote an online commenter from a rival website:
The best solution is to call 911 after you shoot the intruder.
Ban the Prius
The Capital Times online is blaming Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican, naturally, for the job cutbacks at GM's SUV plant in Janesville.
A reasonable person might have thought the reduction of 765 jobs was because GM is making too many sports utility vehicles -- "too many" being defined as more than the consumer will buy in this era of $3/gallon gasoline.
But Rep. Ryan should have followed John Nichols' economic isolationist line. Ban the Toyota and its Prius, Madison's de facto official vehicle, with its miserly fuel efficiency. hrow up trade restrictions. Deny consumers their choices so that Janesville could continue to crank out Suburbans and Envoys. (Introducing the old and unimproved Lada!)
Actually, it is precisely because of that competition that GM and Ford are rolling out more fuel-efficient -- and exciting -- vehicles. Let's hope that some of those get made here in Wisconsin.
But wouldn't you think The Capital Times would be the last to criticize anyone for job cuts, having pared 24 jobs itself? (And that does not count production and delivery people.) Maybe we can blame Paul Ryan for that, too. TCT readers were outsourced to India.