Kelsey Davis did not intend to involve police when she used a campus phone to make an international phone call. As a secretary for the Masters of Business Administration, Davis picked up the phone to get in touch with an international applicant only to look down and see that she had dialed the University Police.
Kelsey Davis, a junior from Littleton, Colo., studying English, followed routine procedures for dialing an international phone number using a campus phone. Phone users were required to dial a “9” to call any number off campus, followed by a “1” for a long-
distance phone call. When dialing an international number, a second “1” typically follows as the start to an international country code.
Davis had accidentally dialed 911 and hung up the phone only to see the University Police calling her back.
“Do I have to answer? How do they know I called?” Davis said. “At this point I really wished I could blame it on my co-worker, but I answered and sheepishly admitted that I had accidentally made the call.”
Davis’ experience is only one of many that led to a change across campus in the way phone calls are made. Many students and faculty members have experienced the unwanted arrival of the police when trying to make an international phone call.
Lt. Arnold Lemmon of University Police said that the amount of accidental 911 calls received was far too high, and due to protocol, every abandoned phone call must be responded to.
“We would get several phone calls where individuals would hang up so we’d try to call back,” Lemmon said. “Some were embarrassed and didn’t want to answer the phone so we would have to send an officer. You can’t just ignore 911 calls.”
To better monitor the seriousness of incoming calls to the University Police and to decrease the amount of accidental 911 calls, there is no longer a need to dial a “9” first when using campus phones.
Steve Goodman, manager of Brigham Young University’s Police Technology and Communications Center, said that changing the phone system was an extensive yet important project. It has taken the last two years to perfect the system and ensure a smooth transition for BYU’s campus.
“We have about 7,200 phones on campus,” Goodman said. “We came to find out that only about three percent of 911 (calls) were actually valid.”
Now with every 911 phone call received, it is more likely to assume there is an actual problem rather than a dialing error. With the change, every incoming phone call can be treated seriously.
Davis, who admits to making this mistake 10 times in the past two years, is excited about the change and even more impressed with the concern taken by the University Police.
“It was embarrassing to stay on the line and talk with an officer, but I was really impressed with the technology and concern of the police.”
Time and resources of University Police were not only being abused with accidental 911 calls but also with the unintentional setting off of emergency buttons in elevators across campus.
The University Police Department is currently developing a proposal to present to administration for the installation of cameras in all campus elevators.
“We’re working with physical facilities to analyze if it’s a viable option,” Lemmon said. “We just need that capability because so many people inadvertently hit the button. It’s been really drawing on our resources.”
Lt. Lemmon hopes that these may be just the beginning of technological changes to help University Police protect campus.
The University Police Department only receives 911 calls made directly from campus phones. If an individual were to call 911 using a cell phone while on campus, it would be directed to the Provo Police Department and then transferred to University Police.
“We want to be able to receive 911 calls from cell phones,” Lemmon said. “BYU students text and use cell phones. These devices should help with safety too.”
No project is currently underway. However, University Police is looking at options for changes in the future.
Most recent is University Police’s creation of the “Police Blotter.” The Police Blotter was produced as an effort to address the concerns of BYU’s Department of Communications and those working with BYU’s newspaper, The Universe.
The University Police provides the basic information of campus criminal activity to the public, as required by federal law. In addition, student journalists may now complete and submit a records request form for more information.
Joel Campbell, a journalism professor, is grateful for the steps being taken to help student journalists learn how to better cover police information.
“I really do feel like the administration is trying hard to help us as a journalism program to teach,” Campbell said. “We’re able to look at the Police Blotter and request records now. Even more than that, the University community has more access online to the police information, and we can also use that to better cover safety and security on our campus.”
To view the Police Blotter and learn more about the University Police, visit police.byu.edu.