Alarming 9-1-1 failures
Mishandling even just one or two 911 calls is serious business. It is no exaggeration to say that such a foul-up could make the difference between life and death.
But failing to dispatch help for 45 emergency 911 calls is a symptom of far bigger problems at the Charleston County Consolidated 911 Center.
Charleston County detectives Tuesday arrested and charged one employee, Dezerea S. Shelton, with obstructing justice and misconduct in office. All 45 calls that were not dispatched between Jan. 8 and Aug. 25 were allegedly handled by her. She was fired Sept. 5.
One was a call for medical help, and the remainder were for law enforcement assistance. Fortunately, no injuries have been reported as a result, and no other 911 center employees were involved, according to county officials.
But only an impaired system would fail to detect the problem for so long. Indeed, the situation was not discovered until The Post and Courier began investigating why Mount Pleasant police were not notified about a burglary that neighbors had called about twice.
Charleston County Administrator Kurt Taylor said, “It is unfortunate that this individual failed to do her job,” adding that the center has “outstanding” training.
“I will not tolerate any employee’s failure to perform duties that could affect public safety,” Mr. Taylor said.
Of course he shouldn’t.
But his strong words should be directed toward the employee’s supervisors as well as Miss Shelton. There should be checks and balances in an operation so essential to public safety.
Jim Lake, director of the 911 center, said a new protocol is in place and should make a difference. End-of-shift reports will now show blank incidents immediately. And shift supervisors will be required to review these reports daily. In addition, random audits will be conducted more frequently,
Even with these sensible, swift actions, it will take the 911 center some time to earn back the public’s trust.
Meanwhile, the area’s emergency responders, who rely on the 911 center to inform them of fires, burglaries, assaults and medical emergencies, should report any inconsistencies they encounter.
The county already performs criminal background checks and drug and polygraph tests before hiring employees. Perhaps job candidates should be subject to even greater scrutiny.
People need to know that when they call 911, the appropriate agency will be dispatched to assist. Immediately.
The Charleston County Consolidated 911 Center serves a vital function. The public must have every confidence that it operates at maximum efficiency.