911 operators caught on tape talking about police officers and potentially putting their lives in danger.
For the past several months, FOX 5 has been investigating complaints into the Office of Unified Communications, which runs the 911 call center in the District.
Now, police and firefighters are coming forward, saying their lives are being put in danger because of some dispatchers behaving badly. And FOX 5 has obtained inside recordings that they say proves their case.
OUC Employee: "Can you find out what the deal is with the officer? He got my nephew stopped on 5th and Newcomb."
On the recordings, you can hear an OUC employee call the 7th District dispatcher and ask her to interrupt a police officer in the middle of a traffic stop.
7-D DISPATCHER: "Be advised, before you complete the traffic stop, I need to call you. That vehicle belongs to...um...a worker here at this time, sir."
OFFICER 7053: "Yeah, that's irrelevant at this time, ok?"
7-D DISPATCHER: "He's nasty."
OUC EMPLOYEE: "Yes, he is."
7-D DISPATCHER: "I can always count on you sir…Motherf-----, I don't like him."
Determined, the dispatcher now calls the 7-D police supervisor. But, at the same time, another police officer in the field, who goes by the call sign 1105, calls in to 911 for backup.
7-D DISPATCHER: "That's somebody's car up here and that's her son driving it, is he being arrested? That's all she wanted to know so she can go out to the scene."
OFFICER 1105: "Cruiser 1105."
7-D SUPERVISOR: "She doesn't need to come out to the scene anywhere if somebody is being arrested."
7-D DISPATCHER: "I don't know, she wants to know, she says her son called her and they told him to hang up the phone or whatever."
OFFICER 1105: "Cruiser 1105."
The dispatcher finally responds to Officer 1105 by trying to put him on hold.
7-D DISPATCHER: "You're on standby, unless you have a prior."
OFFICER 1105: "Send me another unit."
7-D DISPATCHER: "You're on standby."
OFFICER 1105: "Need an officer for safety, send me another unit."
The dispatcher continues to talk on a separate line about the ticket.
7-D DISPATCHER: "I don't like this officer because when Damon busted a hole in my wall, he told me he was going to arrest me because I threatened to beat Damon's a--. I don't like him."
The officer who called in for backup ended up being okay. But police union spokesman Kris Baumann says incidents like this one from last summer continue to happen everyday. "The amount of time that it happens on a daily basis is just astounding."
Ray Sneed of the DC Fire Fighters Association agrees. "For us, it’s a life or death situation."
He’s says he’s especially frustrated by dispatchers giving wrong information. "You get a bad address and then you get there late and as you know in our profession, every second counts."
The recordings FOX 5 obtained have plenty of examples.
7-D DISPATCHER: "30-20 7th Street Southeast."
OFFICER 7055: "Can you repeat address?"
7-D DISPATCHER: "Its 3-20 7th Street Southeast."
WATCH COMMANDER: "No such address in the 7th District."
OFFICER 7061: "Are you saying 3-20 7th Street or 30-20?"
7-D DISPATCHER: "Its 30-20 7th Street Southeast. 30-20."
The unions say they file formal complaints. In this case, the Fraternal Order of Police cited a “lack of professionalism” and “outright hostility by the dispatchers.”
OUC responded to the complaint, saying, “although radio etiquette is open for discussion...at no time was the dispatcher negligent in her response."
The Mayor’s office and the Metropolitan Police Department say they stand behind OUC Director Janice Quintana.
The unions say it’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt or killed.
FOX 5 tried several times to talk with Quintana about these concerns. After being repeatedly turned down, we finally met up with her at her office…
“You can’t come past here.”
…where security guards wouldn’t let us approach her. Instead, she quickly walked away from us and into the OUC building as we called out questions.
"Ms. Quintana, its Tisha Thompson with FOX 5, can we talk to you? We want to talk to you about the problems with OUC. Ms. Quintana, we've been trying to talk to you about the problems. Police officers say your dispatchers are putting them in danger."
Baumann believes there’s a reason why Quintana won’t answer our questions. "When you're shutting the media out, when you're shutting the City Council out, when you're shutting the police out, people should be alarmed. Because this means that there is no way to change anything and it means someone is hiding something."