This particular situation received wide publicity and was made the city look terrible. The boy was killed from being beaten up. If the police had arrived promptly they would've saved him. There was no reason for the police not to have arrived promptly. They received numerous 911 calls but the system failed to dispatch officers accordingly. It was a disgrace. An excellent example of how automation and technology is not always better than manual systems they replaced.
As to the legal liability, again there was widespread publicity and agreement that in this particular case the city would've been liable because of the circumstances. Indeed, the city police dept is often sued and loses for doing too much or doing too little.
Who said they went for the "cheap"? These systems were expensive and modern.
Forgive me for sounding smug, but some years ago I had a chance informal encounter with a local police chief and we talked about the emerging 911 computer systems. I noted some possible risks -- general issues present in any computerized system. As time went on those issues have come up in modern 911 systems.
Nobody wants to admit that "garbage in garbage out" can happen to their system. But it does. Often.
Nobody wants to admit their program can crash. But it will. Often.
To me, it is inexcusable that modern digital police radios -- selected because they are supposedly "better", regularly fail while on the job. Are the manufacturers rushing these things to market without extensive testing the radios in worst case situations? Do the engineers even understand the propagation issues of digital signals? Geez, way, way back in Bell Labs they outfitted a Model T with radio receivers and measuring equipment (which had to be developed all new) and drove around the entire NYC metro area measuring signal reception. The map of signal strength was very interesting and showed a heck of a wide variation. This was back c. 1915. I guess that was the last time anyone bothered to do that.
When the Bay Area Rapid Transit system was built, the engineers and Feds were enamoured with high tech. The Feds wanted some work for the aerospace industry which was in decline because of the end of Vietnam. But building an jet fighter is totally different than building a train. They don't have gritty dirt to foul up circuits and animals that chew on wires 30,000 feet in the air. Trains do. So BART had delay after delay before it could open since the circuits just didn't work. Trains have been running elsewhere with electronic control circuits for 50 years, but BART purposely rejected that technology as "old fashioned". BART's trains ran off the track into the parking lot, I heard because crystals malfunctions.
In the meantime, another brand new system, PATCO (Lindenwold NJ) was also bright and modern but used -- by design (and lack of money) -- standard off the shelf parts. It bought used WE pay phones for customer help phones and a used SxS switch for communications. But its trains ran at 75 mph and reliably none the less, apparently the 50 year old 100 Hz electronic signal circuits they chose had some value to it.
Please forgive my rant, but when the techo-geeks and the capitalists behind them offer some new "wonderful" high tech stuff, please make sure it is a genuine improvement for me, not just a tradeoff of new inconveniences and risks.