/ Modified jun 29, 2022 4:22 p.m.

Rethinking 911

Leaders from Tucson, other cities create blueprint for new emergency response systems

TFD paramedic A Tucson Fire Department vehicle and gear.

Tucson's mayor and police chief say cities need to take a fresh look at how they respond to emergencies.

Speaking in New Orleans Wednesday morning, Mayor Regina Romero referred to the case of Carlos Adrian Ingram Lopez, a Tucson man who died in police custody two years ago, as an example of the need to reform the 9-1-1 system.

"If it would have been a co-response model or a different, other than police, response then it could have been a different result in that situation," Romero said.

Ingram-Lopez had been acting erratically with cocaine in his system. He went into cardiac arrest and died while under police restraint. The city paid a two-million dollar settlement to the man's family.

Tucson Police chief Chad Kasmar told the gathering dispatchers need more options than simply sending police cars, fire trucks or ambulances to every emergency.

"This requires removing, as you've heard, the default police, fire, EMS or other traditional emergency response that we've come to know with the deployment of our 911 system," Kasmar said.

He and Romero was among a nationwide group of city officials who unveiled a blueprint for transforming emergency dispatch centers to respond to a broader range of needs.

Kasmar took over the joint city/county Public Service Communication Department in early 2021, in the wake of the department head's departure and widespread morale problems.

The "Transforming 911" plan calls for emergency dispatchers to be treated as independent and equal to other first responders, such as police and firefighters.

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