More Changes for Dallas 911 System

911 dispatchers disciplined after Dallas woman's death

Major changes could be on the way to the Dallas 911 system because of two recent controversies.

In July, callers said they were not able to reach an operator when calling about a house fire.

And in August, a woman was found dead in her home two days after she called 911, an incident that drew national attention.

911 Call Takers Disciplined

Dallas police announced Wednesday night that two 911 call-takers were disciplined for not following proper procedure during calls about Deanna Cook.

Cook called 911 and said her former husband was attacking her. Dallas police came to her house but left when no one answered the door.

Police Chief David Brown suspended the 911 call-taker who answered Cook's 911 call and fired the call-taker who answered a call from her family two days later.

The Dallas Police Department, which runs the 911 call center, released information Wednesday on its investigation.

Dallas police said a call from a cellphone at Deanna Cook's home was made on Aug. 17. When officers arrived, the door was locked. DPD said officers checked the windows and found nothing.

Cook's body was discovered two days later. Her former husband has been arrested in connection with her death.

Dallas police said an internal affairs investigation revealed that the 911 call center supervisor was called away and was unavailable to help as required under standard operating procedure when Cook called. The investigation concluded that 911 call-taker Tonyita Hopkins failed to enter critical information into a call sheet.

She received a 10-day suspension and was reassigned to another work group in the department.

Brown directed internal affairs to launch an investigation into why a supervisor was not on the floor at the time the emergency call was received.

The Internal Affairs Division also looked into a 911 call made by Cook's family on Aug. 19.

Call-taker Angelia Herod-Graham instructed family members to contact the jail and local hospitals when they attempted to report that Cook was missing and asked that an officer go by her home. The investigation found that Herod-Graham failed to enter a call sheet without unnecessary delay and that, as a result, Cook's family had to force their way into her home, where they found her body.

Herod-Graham, who police say previously mishandled two other calls, was terminated.

Police said she had been disciplined for failure to report a 911 call regarding a police officer being assaulted and for disconnecting a citizen from 911 while she was attempting to report a man with a gun outside her home.

Hopkins and Herod-Graham both have the right to appeal.

Police said on August 22 that they created a new classification for call takers and dispatchers to use when relaying reports to officers in the field. The new class is for calls involving serious bodily injury or death and will be listed as highest priority.

Calls to 911 Unanswered During Fire

Neighbors reported not being able to get through to 911 while a fire raged at a home in the 1900 block of Berwick Avenue in the early morning hours of July 4.

"I called and got no answer," said Dolores Lewis. "The service was not there when we needed it."

The address placard that reads 1906 and stones outside her home are all that remain.

On Wednesday, Dallas city leaders were briefed on upgrades to the system which could be implemented between the next few months and next year.

Those include upping the amount of calls the system can take, upgrading the technology of the recording system and more funding for the call center.

"When you have a flood of calls to call-takers' station, you want to hear a live voice, and that's what we want to do -- be able to get someone on the phone immediately," Councilman Dwaine Caraway said. "That will enhance it tremendously."

In 2008, the city transferred the 911 call system from the fire department to the police department in an effort to cut down on miscommunication. The city thought police officers would do a better job training call-takers to communicate with officers in the field.

NBC 5's Ray Villeda contributed to this report.

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