Dispatcher accused of hanging up on Spanish-speaking callers

The Mass. dispatcher is on paid leave during an investigation into several calls that may have been mishandled

The Associated Press

LAWRENCE, Mass. — Officials say a Massachusetts 911 dispatcher is under investigation for hanging up on several callers who did not speak English.

WBZ-TV reports the Lawrence dispatcher, whose name has not been released, has been placed on paid leave and could lose her job.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera told WBZ-TV that approximately 75 percent of his city is Hispanic and that the dispatcher's actions could have put residents in harm's way.

“It’s not just they didn’t do their job, they put people in harm’s way,” Mayor Daniel Rivera said. “The people that work there for the most part do a good job.”

According to U.S. Census estimates, more than one-third of Lawrence's residents speak English "less than very well."

Police Chief James Fitzpatrick says dispatchers are supposed to get a translator on the line if they're having difficulty understanding a caller. He says residents should not hesitate to call 911 even if there is a language barrier.

Fitzpatrick says one caller who may have been in need of help and was hung up on never called back.

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