Onondaga Co. 911, Syracuse Fire, Police officials come together in response to critical State report

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Officials from the Onondaga County 911 Center, Syracuse Police and Syracuse Fire have been discussing ways to further protect police officers when they’re called in for help from EMS.

It follows a State Attorney General’s Office report released in late January into an officer involved shooting last June in Syracuse.

The report found what the AG’s office claims is a gap in communication between the three agencies on this call that resulted in the death of DeWayne Watkins.

Julie Corn was only a few weeks into her new job as Commissioner of the Onondaga County Department of Communications – 911 when this happened.

“When something like that would happen somebody comes down and makes sure the commissioner is notified immediately. And, I remember that day very well,” she tells NewsChannel 9.

Watkins had dialed 911 because he was having trouble breathing. Syracuse Firefighters were first to respond to the call on West Calthrop Avenue last June.

After they arrived firefighters then took cover behind their truck because, as they approached, Watkins started waiving what appeared to be a pistol at them.

One of the firefighters contacted the dispatch center to indicate they needed police help but was not asked and did not offer why.

Corn says, “The policy does say we should be asking those kinds of questions, yes.”

It was only determined after the incident the gun Watkins was waiving was a non-working BB gun. It was also later determined that Watkins was intoxicated at the time of the incident.

The fact that a weapon was involved in the incident was eventually communicated from the scene and from fire to police dispatchers and then the officer, but not until the shooting was happening.

Corn says on many of the calls handled at the 911 Center there’s a lot that goes into them. She says no one policy can dictate every single second of these fast moving situations.

The Attorney General’s Office report cleared the SPD officer of the shooting but questioned why he wasn’t informed of the reason firefighters needed help.

“What’s tricky is they’re always keeping first responder safety in mind, so that flow of communication is a little more complicated than one might think,” Corn says.

She does say this has created an opportunity for her office, along with Syracuse Police and Fire, to meet and make sure they’re all on the same page about policies and procedures that already exist and also to find areas for improvement for scenarios like this one.

“Bottom line we’re trying to figure out how do we take the improvements that we’re making and put them into a document that is something we can all use going forward,” Corn tells NewsChannel 9.

She says this a priority for everyone involved but says she can’t discuss specifics in order to best preserve officer safety in the future.

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For more local news, follow Jeff Kulikowsky on Twitter @JeffNC9

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