The Spokesman-Review

911 call taker broke protocol in Starbuck homicide

Spokane county officials said an investigation into the December homicide of a Deer Park woman revealed a call to the 911 communications center from the victim’s cell phone was not forwarded to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for investigation, which is protocol.

The break in protocol was made by a long-term 911 call taker, according to a Spokane County news release. When the center received a hang-up call from Chanin Starbuck’s cell phone, the dispatcher should have followed up and called back twice before forwarding the information to the sheriff’s office.

The unidentified dispatcher only tried to call back once, the news release said, and the information was never given to authorities to investigate.

“We learned of the mistake while making evidential recordings for major crimes detectives,” said 911 Director Lorlee Mizell.

Hang-up calls fall into two categories. A Phase One call gives the dispatcher the cell phone number and the cellular tower location. A Phase Two call gives the number, as well as the latitude and longitude of the call. The call from Starbuck’s phone fell into the Phase Two category, the news release said.

All call takers and supervisors will receive a hang-up call refresher on Monday, and the issue will be addressed again at an upcoming supervisors meeting, Mizell said. A third session on how to handle hang-up calls will be held at the next monthly training meeting.

The 911 center received more than 1,700 hang-up calls in January, the news release said. About 900 were Phase One calls and another 280 were Phase Two. The remaining calls were tracked to the caller’s cell phone and resolved.

Mizell said “we addressed it with the call taker December 27,” but it is unknown whether that means the dispatcher was fired.

This story is developing.

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