Livestreaming 911 Emergency Calls Directly to Police Officers
Updated: Apr 28
Chief Roxana Kennedy
Chula Vista Police Department
Leveraging data and adopting new technologies can help officers have more information to make better-informed decisions, to respond quicker, and to save people’s lives. The Chula Vista Police Department in Southern California has a rich history in cutting edge innovation and taking risks with new solutions to improve public safety. Most recently, our agency is the first in the country to livestream 911 emergency calls directly to officers in the field in real- time.
Chula Vista Police Department partnered with HigherGround to develop, refine, and test a new product aptly called “Live911.” The vision for closing the gap between police dispatcher to first responders by allowing first responders to hear incoming 911 calls came from a retired Chula Vista Police Captain. If the idea was developed and implemented, it could transform emergency response for first responders.
I am sure we can all agree dispatchers do an amazing job, but sometimes all the information about a call for service cannot be entered into CAD or conveyed by the dispatcher because there is so much information flowing in a short period of time. With Live911, officers can set a geo-fence – say a half mile radius from wherever their patrol car is – and listen to incoming 911 calls as they come in within their area. This allows officers to hear details and nuances that may not otherwise be provided, listen to the caller’s voice revealing the sense of urgency, and access contemporaneous updates on the situation while driving to the scene.
Reduced Response Times
Time is never on a first responder’s side. Listening to Live911 provides a head start for officers monitoring incoming 911 calls by eliminating standard delays from dispatching. Using technology to get a jump on response time is definitely a game-changer. If an officer can arrive at a situation that is potentially life or death, shaving a minute or two may make all the difference.
One of our officers recently responded to an emergency call about a dangerous situation occurring in the bathroom of a liquor store. To the caller’s surprise, the police officer walked into the establishment while the caller was still on the phone with our dispatcher. I keep hearing these types of stories the more we use this technology. At our officers’ request, we have now fully deployed Live911 to all our officers in the field and they are enjoying the benefits.
Increased Situational Awareness
We all want well-informed first responders. We want them to have a good understanding as to the type of situation they are going into. The more information and data that can be provided enhances their ability de-escalate and resolve issues in the safest and most effective manner.
Certainly, hearing the calls helps with this goal, but the ability to view precise GPS map location – within a couple of feet – where the caller is located has proven to be equally valuable for the officers’ safety and for them to develop tactical situational awareness. Officers can look on Live911’s mapping feature and see exactly where that caller is standing and drive directly to that location without delay.
Our dispatchers also like Live911’s mapping capabilities because it helps them immediately coordinate which officer to send to the call for service. They can see where the caller is located and all the officers in the area. Before, dispatchers would have to keep asking the caller for their location. If that did not work, the dispatcher would have to go into another program and enter the phone number to see where that location was – adding more delay to this urgent process.
We have seen Live911 bridge a gap between dispatch and patrol. Officers could hear the actual calls dispatchers receive for the first time and realized how difficult it can be to obtain critical information quickly. It has been nice to see our officers express an elevated level of respect and even protectiveness toward our amazing call takers.
This tool has also connected citizens to officers. For instance, dispatchers often receive frantic calls stating, “Please send the police. I need them now.” Yet when asked for more details the caller is not forthcoming. Now, it is reassuring to citizens when the dispatcher tells them an officer is listening to the call. Callers are far more receptive to providing the critical information requested.
As I mentioned, we have a culture within our organization to push people outside of their comfort zones to find creative solutions to improve our services. As part of our Public Safety Innovation Initiative, we initiated a drone as first responder (DFR) program in 2018. While testing Live911, we had our drone pilot, who is in a command center, listen to calls and launch the drone based on this new data source. Currently, they’re flying 70 to 80 percent of their launches based on the audio of the 911 calls. In most cases, the drone arrives before our officers.
So, not only do officers get the audio and map location of the call, they receive a simultaneous video feed of what is going on at the scene. Dispatchers can also look at the live feed and direct questions to the caller, “I’m watching the live drone footage, is that grey car involved?”
Advanced technology is critical right now as we evaluate the challenges law enforcement is facing. During my 28 years at the Chula Vista Police Department, we have shared stories of how technology advancements can help keep our community safe. Fortunately, our Police Foundation and City Council have a history of supporting our efforts and contributing the necessary funding to explore new solutions to advance our mission.
Live911 is now available for purchase, training and deployment at police agencies across the country. For more information, visit www.live911.com.
Chief Roxana Kennedy
Under Chief Kennedy’s leadership, Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) has adopted an innovation initiative focused on using technology to enhance community safety, increase situational awareness and officer safety, and reduce response times. Chief Kennedy’s goal is to share experiences with law enforcement partners nationally and internationally to help standardize and expand technology services to any interested agency.