Steven Bond was upset about the way a 911 operator handled his phone call last night so he found the number on the Baltimore City Police Department webpage to complain and called it.
The site promised the number would connect the caller 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week to “an Internal Investigations Detective.”
But the call was not answered by a grizzled detective or a police officer of any kind. Instead Bond heard this:
“Welcome to America’s hottest talk line,” said a young woman’s voice on a recording. “Guys, hot ladies are waiting to talk to you. Press 1 now!”
At other times when he called the number – 866-396-2500 – the recorded voice was male and it gushed, “Congratulations! Just for calling today, you’re going to the Bahamas!”
The Brew tested the number today and had the same experience. Sometimes it was the chat gal, sometimes it was the Bahamas guy.
Police have not yet responded to The Brew’s request for comment, but the number is no longer listed on their website. Last updated on 12/18/12, the page was refreshed today at 10:48 a.m. (Bond had been calling around to the media.)
Bond knows the story will be grist for humor, but the whole experience left him not so much amused as angry.
“It shows the city really doesn’t care about allowing citizens to report problems with the police. They don’t care how their officers are treating people,” he said. “Think of all the people who called to report a problem and and got this.”
Verbally Aggressive Person
Bond said he had called 911 from his cell phone when he was at a downtown gym at closing time just before 10 p.m. Monday night.
“They had an intruder come in who was verbally attacking the person at the front desk,” he said.
The incident, at the Brick Bodies fitness center at 218 N. Charles Street, ended peacefully when a patron led the man out of the building. But initially Bond and other patrons were frightened.
Bond had been exercising and heard “a thud” and the sound of shouting and a distraught woman running for cover to the women’s locker room. Hiding with others behind the locked door of a Zumba studio, using his cell phone, he dialed 911.
“I had a terrible experience,” he said, describing his attempt to get the 911 operator to send an officer.
“She said if I couldn’t give her the exact address, she would hang up on me,” Bond said. He said he told the person who answered the phone he wasn’t sure of the address and tried to tell her cross streets and the name of the establishment and encouraged her to “just Google the name and you’ll get the address.”
“She was yelling at me to go outside [the room] to the desk and ask the address,” he said. “That made no sense – it was where the trouble was.”
A Citizen Complaint, a Sultry Response
Later, around 11 p.m. at home, he started dialing the city to complain. There was no answer at 311 at that hour.
He also called the local line listed for complaints – 410-396-2300. That one just rang and rang, he said, eventually cutting off without going to a phone recording saying to leave a message.
Then he got the racy chat line and the scammy cruise company. “I dialed it again,” he said, “to make sure I hadn’t hit the wrong numbers.”
“I would have understood it, or expected it I guess, if they took my information and then never did anything about it,” he said. “But they didn’t even let me make a complaint at all.”
We asked Bond, a web developer, what he imagined could be the cause of the screw-up. A prank? A phone hack?
“I’m guessing the city just didn’t pay their bill,” Bond said, “and the number just went to somebody else.”
This response came in after publication from Baltimore Police spokesman, Detective Sgt. Jarron L. Jackson:
“Once we became aware of the issues with our website, we immediately had the matter corrected. Providing a clear avenue for our citizens to report matters of concern to our internal affairs division has always been a priority to our department. We are currently investigating the cause of this issue.”