Dispatcher’s decision concerns Chief Nichols
A mom worked 90 minutes to free her daughter from a car without police help.
Nicole Lynch of Struthers accidentally locked her 16-month-old daughter in a running car Feb. 25 in the parking lot of PetCo and Toys “R” Us on U.S. Route 224. The child was secure in her seat and soon fell asleep.
When Lynch called Boardman police, a dispatcher understood that a child was locked in the car and connected Lynch with a towing company.
“The call never made it past the dispatcher, and that causes concern,” said Police Chief Jack Nichols.
The towing company said the cost would be $45 to unlock the door, but Lynch had just $35 in her account. She hung up with dispatch and used a wire hanger given to her from a Toys “R” Us employee to open the door.
“I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. ... I understand it was my fault, but I didn’t do it on purpose. Nobody even came down to help me. It just bothers me,” Lynch said.
Capt. Don Lamping said records show that all six officers on the road that Friday night were either at a call or on their way to a call when Lynch contacted dispatch. Lamping said he believes that was a factor in the dispatcher’s decision.
Nichols said the department stopped handling lockouts about 10 years ago because of liability from damage caused by the tools.
If the dispatcher sent an officer to Lynch, the officer would have offered to break out the window for Lynch or call a tow company and then clear the call, Nichols said.
“... In this type of situation, I would have liked the officer to go. ... Just send a car,” Nichols said.
Lamping said township dispatchers are given three priorities for lockouts:
Rescue. Child or pet locked inside a vehicle is a potential rescue situation, especially with extreme weather conditions or other exigent circumstances. Police response is required, and fire and EMS response might be necessary.
Safety. Person is stranded in an isolated area with keys locked in the vehicle. This may constitute a safety hazard, and police response is required.
Inconvenience. A person with keys locked in the vehicle in a public area. This is an inconvenience only, and no police response is required.
The dispatcher probably thought that it was “not necessarily a rescue situation because the baby wasn’t in distress, the heater was on, baby was strapped down and could not get out of the car seat,” Lamping said.
He added that the dispatcher is experienced and has not had previous complaints.
Nichols said he will continue to look into the matter. “It’s a decision he made, and I’m not real happy with it,” he said.