St. Clair County 911 Emergency Telephone Board Executive Director Herb Simmons disputed recent comments made by Dupo Police Chief Kevin Smith in regard to a potential disconnect between the village and St. Clair County’s dispatching agency.
Smith said a dispatcher did not relay pertinent information to his department during a July incident in which a male stranger ransacked an older couple’s garage at night, prompting multiple emergency calls from the homeowners as they watched in fear.
Emergency calls made in Dupo and throughout St. Clair County are dispatched by CENCOM, which operates answering points in East St. Louis and Belleville.
At the time of the incident, Smith said his two on-duty officers were handling a call involving a deceased male in the back seat of an Uber vehicle.
The chief said the call was relayed to his officers as a suspicious person rather than a burglary in progress.
A suspect, 33-year-old Jacob M. Anderson, was subsequently charged in St. Clair County Circuit Court with felony burglary for the incident.
The story gained the attention of KMOV, who ran an investigative TV news segment earlier this month.
“How do you go on TV and admit you are wrong and have disciplined an officer, but come back and say the dispatcher was in the wrong?” Simmons asked the Republic-Times in reference to the chief.
Simmons said that during a meeting of all parties on the matter, Smith said one officer was at the police station during the death investigation call while the other was on scene. Simmons added that EMS had been on the death call scene 55 minutes prior to the suspicious person/burglary call.
Smith countered that by telling the Republic-Times that both of his officers were handling the death call at that time – one was meeting with the family of the deceased at the police station while the other stayed on scene.
Simmons added that a few days prior to the burglary report, the same residents had called to report a neighbor’s garage door had been kicked in but there was no response.
Smith explained that his department had observed the fallen garage door the night before it had been called in and had made arrangements to have the opening boarded up.
“That is a vacant property,” Smith said, adding the caller never requested a follow-up on that matter.
As for Smith’s attempts to have Dupo emergency calls dispatched by the neighboring Columbia Police Department rather than CENCOM, Simmons said that “he’s never had that conversation with me at all.”
However, Smith read from a November 2017 email exchange with Simmons on the matter.
Simmons said it was Dupo who initiated the switch from Cahokia dispatch to CENCOM several years ago.
“They came to us and said they weren’t happy with Cahokia,” Simmons said. “That was a choice they made. We’ve done nothing but help them.”
Smith stands by his earlier points that an officer should have followed up with the burglary call once able, but the proper circumstances were not relayed to police by the dispatcher.
Simmons insists CENCOM followed all dispatching protocol and that “the (Dupo) Police Department needs to take care of public safety.”