Council Hearing Doesn't Yield Many Answers About Kyle Plush's Death

Apr 17, 2018

A Cincinnati city council committee listened to more than five hours of testimony Tuesday as city leaders try to figure out what went wrong when a 16-year-old who was trapped in a minivan called 911 twice, but never received the emergency help he needed.

Kyle Plush's family sat quietly for most of the meeting in the front row of the council chamber and listened.

They abruptly left as the meeting was ending as Council Member Wendell Young was finishing his closing remarks.

"This is not about money," Plush's father, Ron, shouted.

Young had said, "I suspect there will be attempts to do what the law allows to be done to try in some way to make up for what happened with you, but there is no amount of money that's going to make you happy."

"This is the most insensitive thing I've ever heard," said another family member.  "You guys were doing wonderful till this guy started talking. You've crossed the line."

Committee Chairman Christopher Smitherman said the Plush family's exit from the chamber "hurt him deeply."

Kyle Plush died one week ago after calling 911 twice. He told the first calltaker he was stuck inside his van located in the parking lot at Seven Hills School.

A police car was dispatched but the officers were unable to locate the vehicle since they didn't have a description.

Plush's second call to 911 was answered by a different dispatcher. He provided more detailed information about the vehicle in that call, but it was reportedly never shared with the officers who were still on the scene.

Plush's family found him in the van about six hours later.

There were many questions asked about the actions of the city's Emergency Communications Center (ECC) and two police officers who responded to the scene at the Seven Hills School.

Many went unanswered because Police Chief Eliot Isaac said those details are still be investigated. He suggested the initial report on the incident should be available in ten days.

Isaac said there are a number of things that still need to take place.

"Developing a comprehensive timeline as to what occurred, there are staff members that need to be interviewed, there's camera footage that needs to be reviewed, and how that all played in together," Isaac said. "And also, a very thorough examination of those equipment and technical issues that play into this as well."

The police chief did confirm that the calltaker who answer Plush's second call for help will return to work Wednesday. She was placed on administrative leave following the incident. She will temporarily be doing administrative duties and not answering 911 calls.

City Manager Harry Black said he will also have an outside agency to review the incident once the police department's probe is complete.

Councilmembers heard the ECC is understaffed, morale is low, and that personnel are under constant pressure to learn new technology on an accelerated structure.

Others offering testimony said that some of the people who manage the center don't understand emergency communications and dispatching, others say the center has lost most of its subject matter experts.

"If you've never worked in a comm center, you don't understand a comm center," said Jenny King, an ECC computer systems analyst. "You can't wait and say we'll do this project six months from now. You can't wait and say we'll deal with that next week. You have to deal with everything as it happens, in a real-time situation, and you have to be able to do that consistently, effectively, efficiently, and you have to be able to learn from your mistakes."

One former ECC employee described it as a "toxic" environment.

Council members listened and also pledged to hold another hearing when the internal police report on the incident is complete.

"Kyle clearly did exactly what he was supposed to do," Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld said. "It should not take two calls to get the right response. If you're in an emergency you don't get to make two calls."

The ECC receives about 850,000 calls a year, which works out to about 2,500 per day.