Fired Arlington Dispatcher Disputes Firing

Fire dispatcher dismissed after investigation into shooting death of rookie Arlington officer

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An Arlington emergency dispatcher who was fired after the shooting death of a rookie police officer says she only did what she was trained to do.

    Officer Jillian Smith was killed Dec. 28 while taking a domestic assault report from Kimberly Carter. Carter's former boyfriend, Barnes Nettles, returned to her apartment and killed Smith, Carter and himself.

    Arlington Dispatcher Disputes Firing

    [DFW] Arlington Dispatcher Disputes Firing
    An Arlington emergency dispatcher fired after an investigation into the shooting death of Officer Jillian Smith and another victim, says she's a scapegoat and is battling to keep her job. (Published Thursday, Oct 13, 2011)

    The Arlington Fire Department said dispatcher Joanie Ware, a nine-year veteran, failed to follow proper procedure when Smith did not respond over the radio when contacted.

    Ware, who is fighting her termination, said she is a scapegoat because the policies in place are vague and often undefined.

    "Policy manuals are rife with misspellings, inconsistencies and vague direction and terminology," said Randle Meadows, president of the Arlington Police Association.

    Meadows pointed to terms and phrases such as “use appropriate judgment” and “usually a good idea” as ones used to direct dispatchers in decisions.

    “If you're going to terminate people on lack of judgment, then you need to train people on what the proper judgment is," he said.

    According to the police department's investigation of the incident, mistakes made by Ware and the 911 call-taker hindered officers' response.

    The call-taker who took the 911 call from the neighbor who called after Carter's 11-year-old daughter ran to the neighbor's apartment for help did not relay the information that an officer was down to the dispatcher in a timely manner, officials said.

    The 911 call-taker later resigned.

    However, the investigation also found that there was nothing officers or dispatchers could have done to prevent Smith's death.

    Meadows is calling for an internal audit and overhaul of the current policies but said the fire department has not responded to his suggestions.

    “If they're not communicated, then I have to assume that none are being done,” he said.

    Arbitration on Ware's termination case begins Monday morning.