Appeals Board: Fired 911 Call-Taker Was Definitely Wrong, is Definitely Still Fired

An appeals committee at City Hall on Thursday upheld Dallas Police Chief David Brown's decision to fire a 911 call-taker over her mishandling of a call last August. Angelia Herrod-Graham answered the 911 call from the mother of Deanna Cook, saying she hadn't seen her daughter in two days and wasn't answering her door.

The mother, Vickie Cook, wanted police sent to her daughter's house so they could break in and investigate. Herrod-Graham told her that she couldn't send any police until the caller had checked with local jails and hospitals for her daughter.

The recording of Cook's call was submitted as evidence, and in it there's clearly a loud smash before Cook says, "We got in." Herrod-Graham keeps asking her to describe the scene until Cook find her daughter's body in a bathtub and begins screaming for help. The call disconnects not long after. Herrod-Graham admitted that it took her six minutes to file dispatch officers.

Deanna Cook's own call to 911 is now sealed under a protective order, though previous reports describe it as an agonizing 11 minutes of audio in which Cook can be heard begging for her life as her former husband murders her.

Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Huggard repeatedly asserted that it is against DPD policy both to require callers to check with hospitals and prisons, and to refuse to honor requests for police.

Among the witnesses was Tonyita Hopkins, the call-taker who was on the phone with Deanna Cook when she was murdered. Hopkins also was charged with mishandling her call. She was suspended and later resigned. At the hearing she said that the call center was chronically understaffed, often missing between seven and nine call-takers each shift.

That wasn't enough to sway the panel, which determined that Herrod-Graham was in the wrong and upheld her firing.

Herrod-Graham has been disciplined for mishandling calls before. She failed to report a call about an assault on an officer and disconnected a call from a woman reporting an armed man outside of her house.

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Luke Darby
Contact: Luke Darby