Dallas murder case leads to discipline for 911 operators

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by REBECCA LOPEZ

WFAA

Posted on September 6, 2012 at 7:34 AM

DALLAS — Dallas police have taken disciplinary action against two 911 operators in the wake of emergency calls that were handled improperly, the department said.

Deanna Cook died while waiting for help. She was on the phone with 911 operator Tonyita Hopkins for 11 minutes on the morning of August 17.

Hopkins was trying to find a good address to dispatch officers while listening to the call at the same time.

News 8 has learned that Hopkins had no supervisors in her area that morning.

"She basically did everything and became overwhelmed with everything and trying to expedite the call," said Dallas police Chief David Brown. "No excuse for leaving the floor when a supervisor is required on the floor at all times."

Hopkins was suspended for 10 days.

The chief also fired Angelia Herod-Graham, another 911 operator who took a call from Cook's family two days later, on August 19. They asked for an officer to check her residence. Herod-Graham told family members they had to check jails and hospitals before she would send an officer.

The family discovered Deanna Cook's body. Police later identified her ex-husband as the suspected killer.

Chief Brown said he plans to move seven sergeants from patrol duty to supervisory roles in the 911 center.

For weeks, the chief and city leaders have insisted the problems with 911 are human errors and technical problems with the system. They have denied any staffing shortages.

But out of 90 positions in the 911 section, only 64 are filled.

But when asked whether there are staffing issues, Brown said, "Absolutely not."

The chief said when there is a shortage of 911 operators, they fill the positions by using overtime. Still, he told News 8 he is moving nearly two dozen patrol officers to the 911 call center to be trained as operators.

"We are always looking to improving, and improving doesn't mean there are issues — improving means that we can do better," Chief Brown said.

He noted that the department answers two million calls a year. Those calls are answered within four seconds on average, and officers respond to critical calls within six minutes.

But Deanna Cook's family told News 8 they don't see it that way. They said she died because the system failed her.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com

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