Trending Topics

15 former dispatchers call for removal of Kan. 911 director

Former Sedgwick County 911 dispatchers identifed Director Elora Forshee’s leadership as “tyrannical,” “discriminatory”


A Sedgwick County Communication Center dispatch desk.

Sedgwick County Communications Center & Office of Emergency Management/Facebook

By Matthew Kelly
The Wichita Eagle

SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. — A group of former Sedgwick County 911 dispatchers are making a public appeal for county leadership to remove Emergency Communications Director Elora Forshee from her post, citing deficient training standards and a toxic work culture in the department.

Fifteen former employees signed an open letter that was distributed Wednesday, accusing Forshee of slashing training to the point that it jeopardizes public safety for more than 500,000 residents who rely on the county’s emergency services.

In a written response, Sedgwick County said all 911 training programs meet or exceed the statewide standards established by the Kansas 911 Coordinating Council.

The former employees, who left the department in the last three years, said “Training was drastically cut back and restructured, leading to a decline in our ability to perform our duties effectively.”

“The lack of thorough and adequate training for emergency dispatchers leads to life-threatening errors during crises — a risk no citizen should have to bear.”

Forshee, who has been with the department since 2004 and took over as director in 2015, was not made available to respond Wednesday. The county disputed the former employees’ allegations on her behalf.

“There have been changes in training schedules, but there has been no compromise of training standards,” the statement reads. " Emergency Communications relies on a blended learning environment of classroom and on-the-job training for new employees. In this very complex profession, employees are tested to proficiency in the classroom before they can move into on-the-job training where they have to also demonstrate proficiency before being released.”

The county said proficiency standards for dispatchers “have not been lessened or modified in any way” on Forshee’s watch.

In the letter, former employees also contend Forshee fostered an “oppressive work environment,” characterizing her leadership as “tyrannical,” and “discriminatory.”

“Dispatchers cannot navigate both the very real gravity of public safety and the personal abuses Forshee enacts,” they wrote.

The county denied a claim that 911 employees were fired for taking medical leave time, and citing personnel reasons, declined to comment on alleged abuses committed by Forshee.

Heightened scrutiny

The open letter comes as scrutiny mounts over 911’s handling of an October apartment fire where 22-year-old Paoly Bedeski died trapped in her room after county dispatchers failed to communicate potentially life-saving information about her location to firefighters at the scene.

Bedeski was the first caller to alert 911 to the fire. A recording of the call shows she stated her apartment number twice, but Forshee said at a press conference last month that the call-taker could not understand her. She later confirmed the call-taker had GPS coordinates showing Bedeski inside the apartments and did not use a playback function to listen back to the call.

At the recommendation of the 911 advisory board, the Sedgwick County Commission voted in December to initiate a comprehensive study on Emergency Communications’ handling of the Oct. 13 apartment fire, including why it took dispatchers more than 17 minutes to transmit firefighters’ request for a second alarm.

"(U)nder the current leadership of Sedgwick County Emergency Communications , it’s become clear that facing a community crisis is not our only prerogative, as the internal crisis in the department is reaching a boiling point and mistakes are being made,” the former employees wrote in their letter. “Mistakes that many of us have been warning the department about for years. Mistakes have now cost the life of Paoly Bedeski.”

The letter goes on to say that communication training officers have been “vocal about needing more classroom training and more time with their trainees” but that their appeals have been ignored.

The county said in response that trainers always have the option to ask for more time or an extension for a trainee. “It is not uncommon that Emergency Communications has extended training by trainer request. Continued education for trainers and all staff is a priority for 2024.”

The county statement also noted there are 108 budgeted full-time-employee positions in the Emergency Communications division and 16 vacancies.

The former employees are calling for an investigation into their allegations, the re-institution of “adequate training,” and the ultimate removal of Forshee and “anyone complicit in her behaviors.”

The Wichita firefighters union, which first went public with concerns about 911 dispatchers’ handling of the Brookhollow Apartment tragedy, is also calling for Forshee to be terminated.

These former 911 employees signed the letter: Jewell Smith (Crocker), Dawn Adams, Ellen Brackeen, Rosemary Cole, Brandon Clifton, Alyssa Parker, Kim Chenault, Brianna Oliver, Tina Griffin, Jordan Carver, Katherine Garris, Andrew Benson, Dominic Saisi, Emily Colquette, Courtney Putman

(c)2024 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)
Visit The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.) at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.