Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Controversial comments. A city councilman’s remarks ignite a debate after he suggests it’s OK to lie to 911 operators in order to get a faster response from city police officers.
Derek Valcourt talks to the councilman and his critics about what he said.
He told folks at a community meeting if they’re calling 911 they should say there’s a gun involved if they need immediate assistance. And that doesn’t fly with city police.
In Northeast Baltimore, car theft and burglary victims often complain police take too long to respond to their 911 calls.
“The type of complaint you talk about candidly I’ve been hearing for 20 years,” said Mike Hilliard, Harbel Community Organization.
City Councilman Robert Curran heard similar complaints at a community meeting at a church in the Hamilton Hills neighborhood last weekend. That’s when he told residents they would get a faster police response by telling 911 there is a gun involved– even if there was not.
“I knew what I was saying the other day, and I knew it would bring a response. My intent was to bring this issue to a head,” Curran said.
That issue: Curran says he’s been trying to get additional police resources for Northeast Baltimore after years of complaints from area residents.
But Curran’s comments did not sit well with police.
“Well, there’s a number of things wrong with that. First it’s dishonest and it’s irresponsible,” said Bob Cherry, police union president.
Cherry says lying about guns puts the lives of citizens and police at risk, as officers drive at a high rate of speed responding to a call where they think a suspect is armed.
“And therefore they’re going to get out of the cars with their guns drawn and who knows what can happen,” Cherry added.
Is it ever OK for someone to say there is a gun involved when there isn’t a gun involved?
“Obviously I don’t want to say to lie to police, no,” Curran said. “That’s not the intent. The intent is that if you feel threatened, if you feel someone is breaking into your house, then you need to take steps. But my intent is not to mislead the police in anyway, and if I misspoke in that way then I apologize. What I won’t apologize for is trying to get additional resources for us in Northeast Baltimore.”
Curran stopped short of completely retracting his remarks, saying he’s willing to take a little heat if it gets results for his district.
Police say it’s always best to be truthful and point out you could be tried for filing a false police report if caught.
Police say if a lying 911 caller becomes a witness during a criminal case, that would put their credibility and the case in serious jeopardy.