Fla. dispatcher resigns after not sending help to baby locked in car

After hanging up on the mother when she called 911 in August the dispatcher has left the department

By Elizabeth Behrman
The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA — A police dispatcher who was facing discipline after failing to send help when a 10-month-old baby playing with his mom’s keys accidently locked himself in a car has resigned.

Darrell Brown, who had worked for the Tampa Police Department for more than three years, was found in violation of the department’s attentiveness to duty policy, said spokeswoman Laura McElroy. He quit Oct. 2 while awaiting a decision about the discipline he would face.

Brown, 25, answered when Shana Dees called 911 for help the afternoon of Aug. 23.

She had stopped at a CVS on Bruce B. Downs to buy bleach and bottled water. She put her 10-month-old son, Jack, into his carseat so she could unload her purchases and move her shopping cart away from the car. In the few seconds Dees stepped away from the black Acura, the baby, who had been playing with the car keys, hit the lock button.

Dees said she called her husband to bring the spare car key, then called 911 because it was so hot.

Brown told her officers couldn’t help unless the “child is in some kind of distress,” according to the 911 recording. Even if the officers did come, all they could do is smash the windows, Brown said.

Then he hung up.

Department protocol is to immediately send a police officer and fire rescue to the scene when there is a call about a child locked in a car, McElroy said. Brown violated that policy by not asking Dees for her location or the condition of her baby.

An off-duty officer was at the CVS and saw Dees in distress. He called 911 a second time and reached a different dispatcher, who immediately sent help. A bystander had just smashed the window and pulled Jack out of the car just as paramedics and police officers arrived at the parking lot.

Jack wasn’t hurt and is doing fine, Dees said Tuesday afternoon.

While she hates to see someone without a job, she said she thinks Brown’s resignation from the department might have been the best thing for all parties involved. Maybe, she said, he doesn’t need to be a 911 dispatcher.

“It was a pretty big mess-up,” she said. “When you’re in a situation where minutes matter, you kind of need to be at the top of your game.”

And she’s glad that Brown at least got to make the decision to resign on his own.

“It’s kind of a good ending, actually,” Dees said.


©2014 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.)

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