REPORTING | Isthmus

Investigating 911

 

Just before University of Wisconsin college student Brittany Zimmermann was stabbed and beaten to death inside her campus-area apartment on April 2, 2008, she called 911 for help. Police were never sent. This blunder, and a subsequent botched investigation that sent detectives investigating her murder on a wild goose chase for two weeks, were kept secret from the public. 

 

One month after Zimmermann's murder, Shepard reported the existence of her 911 call. In subsequent stories, 911 Center staff blew the whistle on longstanding problems at the center. Other citizens came forward with complaints about 911 calls, including an important witness in another Madison homicide. The failure of public officials to level about the extent of problems inside the 911 center sparked cries for resignations and firings. The Dane County Board of Supervisors initiated an independent audit of the 911 center's operations and management, and they immediately hired new staff after Isthmus' stories contradicted statements made by County Executive Kathleen Falk about staffing levels. Falk's administration thwarted public records requests for complaints about the center. Subsequent records turned over revealed that Falk and the 911 center's oversight board had long ignored county law and employee contracts by failing to conduct performance evaluations of the 911 center director. The director resigned the day after Isthmus reported the director himself had failed to comply with county law while he was chairman of the oversight board. 

 

Below is a list of Shepard's stories in this series, published in Isthmus newspaper and on the newspaper's Web site, TheDailyPage.com.