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SLCPD take twice as long to respond to most police calls, records show

A review of public records shows that in most instances, response times by SLC police have been longer in 2020 as compared to 2019. File photo: KSL TV

SALT LAKE CITY — What is taking so long for police to arrive?  Recently released records show it takes roughly twice as long for Salt Lake City Police officers to arrive to certain calls compared to last year.

The data comes from documents given to KSL Newsradio after an open records request.  Debbie Dujanovic, co-host of KSL Newsradio’s Dave and Dujanovic, says listeners asked her to investigate whether or not it took longer for police to respond to emergency and low-priority calls.  She says many listeners claimed they had to wait a very long time after calling the Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD), and, the data shows the listeners were right.

The records reveal that response times to high-level “priority one” calls were similar to numbers reported in 2019.  However, in 2019, officers took an average of 14 minutes to respond to “priority two” calls, and this year, it took them an average of 21 minutes.

For “priority three” calls, records show that it took officers over an hour to respond in 2020, which is well more than double what it was last year.

Overall, the average wait time for a police response was just shy of 50 minutes in 2020, compared to 24 in 2019.

“It’s not acceptable”

When asked directly, Salt Lake Police Deputy Chief Lamar Ewell didn’t mince words. “Yes, I agree that 50 minutes is not acceptable,” he said.

Ewell says the problem boils down to staffing.  On paper, he said, it may appear that there are more patrol officers on the payroll than last year.  But that doesn’t paint a complete picture.  He said COVID-19 has had a huge impact on their staff, and that officers have other commitments they have to take care of.

“That may not necessarily take into account the half-dozen or a dozen [officers] quarantined because of the virus, or on military leave or on maternity leave,” he said. 

We’ve had approximately, and I’m going to throw out some approximations, here… 80 officers on one type of leave or another.”

Also, there have been roughly 50 officers who have either resigned, retired, or left the department since the end of April.

“When you look at those numbers, that’s around 130 officers.  That has an impact on us patrolling.”

Ewell says outside analysts say the department would need around 300 patrol officers to operate at full efficiency.  For now, they only have 179, nowhere near what they would like to have.

The data was collected between June 1 and August 31 of 2019 and 2020.