CLEVELAND (CBS Cleveland/AP) – “Help me. I’m Amanda Berry.”
Berry, 27, had been missing since 2003 when she placed the 911 call that would bring to an end her decade-long internment.
“I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now,” she breathlessly told a dispatcher in a call that exhilarated and astonished much of the city.
Berry, along with Michelle Knight, 32, and Gina DeJesus, 23, had apparently been held captive in the house since their teens or early 20s, according to Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath.
Ariel Castro, 52, has been charged with four counts of kidnapping — covering the captives and the daughter born to one of them — and three counts of rape, against all three women.
As the investigation into their kidnapping continues, speculative eyes turn also to local law enforcement agencies.
Cleveland police are now facing questions for the second time in four years about their handling of missing-person cases and are conducting an internal review to see if they overlooked anything.
McGrath told NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday he was “absolutely” sure police did everything they could to find the women over the years. He disputed claims by neighbors that officers had been called to the house before for suspicious circumstances.
“We have no record of those calls coming in over the past 10 years,” he said.
In addition, the 911 dispatcher who initially handled the call from Berry herself is also under review.
A statement on the Cleveland Police Department’s Facebook page indicates that the 911 dispatcher’s actions may not have been entirely in line with proper procedure.
“While the call-taker complied with policies and procedures which enabled a very fast response by police, we have noted some concerns which will be the focus of our review, including the call-taker’s failure to remain on the line with Ms. Berry until police arrived on scene,” the post, attributed to Cleveland Department of Public Safety director Martin L. Flask, stated.
He added, “Please be assured that this matter will be investigated, and if necessary, appropriate corrective action taken.”
CBS Cleveland reached out to Cleveland Police for additional information and comment. According to the website for the City of Cleveland, the operator is required to stay on with the caller “until the department [the caller requested] answers.”
Lawrence Travis, Ph.D, a professor at the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati, expressed to CBS Cleveland that he had mixed feelings regarding the proficiency with which the dispatcher handled the situation.
He agreed with the police department’s decision to review the call, but noted that “in general, [he] felt the dispatcher did most things correctly or reasonably,” if less detailed than he possibly ought to have been.
“As someone not especially expert in 911 call handling, I felt the dispatcher did several things correctly … [though] I was surprised that the dispatcher did not inquire more about the health and safety of the caller, or about the likely whereabouts or return time of the suspect,” he said.
Travis, also commented on tone of voice used by the operator.
“It is difficult to distinguish a calm, professional demeanor from that of someone who is callous or bored,” he remarked. “I felt the dispatcher was generally professional and courteous, but I understand how the behavior might appear rude or disinterested.”
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