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Software company refutes claims their program led to 911 communication breakdown

(Priority Dispatch Founder, Dr. Jeff Clawson. Photo: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – The makers of emergency dispatch software are pushing back against claims that their program failed, which prevented officers from being sent to the scene of a brutal home invasion attack four years ago.

Two sisters claim they called 911 when someone broke into their duplex in 2015.  The lawsuit claims Priority Dispatch created a faulty 911 protocol, and officers were never sent to their home.  Attorneys for the plaintiff say the only reason they survived was because a police officer just happened to be in the area.  That officer shot and killed the suspect, Robert Richard Berger.

However, officials with Priority Dispatch say their software never failed because it was never actually used by Salt Lake City dispatchers, in this particular case.

“None of our stuff was ever used.  None of the protocols, none of the software… nothing.  It wasn’t even turned on,” according to company founder Jeff Clawson.

Other officials with Priority Dispatch say they don’t employ the dispatchers, nor do they control the emergency phone lines.  They say their software only kicks in after dispatchers go through a few steps, and they claim those steps didn’t actually happen.

First, President Ron McDaniel says dispatchers have to establish an address where the call is coming from, but, that address was never established.  He believes certain apps, like Uber, are better equipped to triangulate a caller using a cell phone than many 911 systems are.

McDaniel says, “People do not realize that 911 doesn’t know where you are.  Seventy to 80 percent of the time, it does not know where you are.”

They believe the dispatcher was trying to understand the address when the calls were made, but, for whatever reason, that didn’t happen.

“It’s very clear that the people drafting this and putting it together have never seen our software and never seen our process.  It has actually become quite clear that they have never actually seen the 911 process, in general,” McDaniel says.

Company officials believe the plaintiff, Breann Lasley, have every reason to feel the 911 system let them down and needs to be changed.  However, they don’t believe they should have been named in the lawsuit.

He says, “In this case, through some aspect of misinformation or misunderstanding of how 911 works, their anger is absolutely pointed in the wrong place.”

Lasley is seeking $300 thousand in damages.