New Hanover Co. 911 fires operator who handled fatal stabbing call
 

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A frantic 911 call last week during the fatal stabbing of a Wilmington man may have cost a New Hanover County dispatcher her job.

After a review of how the she handled the call, the county decided to fire the operator.

The call came into New Hanover County Dispatch May 2 around 6:45 p.m. The female caller said a man had a knife and he wanted to kill himself.

Caller: "It's still happening. He is trying to kill himself. I need an ambulance now."
911: "Miss Roberts, yelling at me is not helping. I am asking, someone else is sending the units. Answer my questions. How is he trying to harm himself?"

The female caller begged for help.

911: "I am getting help. Ma'am, listen. Miss Roberts, stop. Somebody yelled help. We are already dispatching help to you. My asking questions is not delaying that. It is helping them."

Dispatcher Letha Anderson handled the phone call. She raised her voice and cut the caller off multiple times.

911: "Where is he at with the knife?"
Caller: "I don't know. He left the house."
911: "OK. You do know! He left the house! Did he leave on foot or did he leave in a car?"
Caller: "He left on foot, but I don't know where he is."
911: "OK, what does he look like?"

The incident ended with Roberts charged with murder after allegedly stabbing his father Christopher, 52.

Soon after, the county said it would review how the call was handled.

Friday county spokesman Charles Smith confirmed Anderson has since been fired. Smith said he could not provide the exact reason for Anderson's termination.

We could not find a listing to reach Anderson for comment.

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After listening to the phone call several times, it is clear as day that the dispatcher acted out of line. The female caller was calm, clear and in control of herself. She spoke more professionally than the dispatcher, who immediately accused the female of being out of control. The female got anxious and upset after the dispatchers continuous attitude was too much to handle in an already stressful situation. She was very unprofessional and not helpful at all, which is what a 911 dispatcher is supposed to do- help. Send help. It's sad she lost her job, but this isn't what she needs to be doing as a profession.

This just encourages me not to try and get information out of callers as I am a 911 telecommunicator. From now on I will just go with what the caller says and leave it at that. I will not try my best to help anymore but just sugar coat everything and just through their hoops even if I know there is a better way. It's sad the media called her out like that and if she was so bad this problem should of been resolved over 16 years ago. Sounds like a scape goat. Disappointed in New Hanover County...the media...and the society.

Good going! Now that's the attitude, Bob! Sounds like you are going to win employee of the month. Just go with what the panicked caller says and leave it at that. Don't try to help. Here's a thought. Maybe you might try to calm the caller down - not make them more panic-stricken, upset or defensive.

Would you mind playing the whole 3 minutes ? Where she tried, several times in the beginning, and politely, to get necessary information. Vital to the Police and EMS, to do their jobs, and to keep them out of harm's way. Where the caller was very uncooperative, and yelling at her.

The callers tone seemed to say "get me an ambulance, right now, why aren't they here ?" She did not seem interested in answering questions. It's very sad, and understandable, the horror, and excited nervousness, of a young teenage girl, who just saw her father stabbed, by her brother.

But the dispatcher had to get a knife-carrying suspect's information, so the Police can have a heads-up. So they can clear the scene, and most importantly, take care of her father, ASAP. Gentle politeness, was tried several times, at first, but didn't work.

I guess after the 3rd polite try, to get info, if the dispatcher, would have just given up, and said nothing. The same hate-filled people would be calling for her job, for her "lack of concern, not taking charge, repeating herself, and not following training standards".

I guess it's safer, and far more politically-correct, to use a 10 second sound bite, and fire her, then to put the whole situation in context. No wonder 911 has a 25% turnover rate, every year. And so many dedicated dispatchers have their dreams scattered. But as long as our $90,000 / year "Administrators" stay well-nested, what's the problem ?

My hearts goes out to this 911 operator. It seemed to be a very stressful time and I think she did the best that she could under the circumstances. God bless you mam and I pray that God blesses you with an even better job. I will be praying for you.

I highly doubt that the operator tried "several times and politely" to gather information from the caller. And even if she did, there is still NO EXCUSE for her rude, unprofessional behavior in the portion of the call that was broadcast in this news story. Simply put, she was totally out of line and did not conduct herself in the manner expected of someone in her position.

It's a shame Bruce Shell retired. He valued his people and she'd never lost her job, mostly likely reassigned or re-trained. These new morons only worry about their image.

"It's a shame Bruce Shell retired. He valued his people and she'd never lost her job, mostly likely reassigned or re-trained. These new morons only worry about their image."
On the contrary:These new folks are not part of the "Ol' boy" network that has run NHC up to his retirement. While Bruce is a very good person and a nice guy; he is not a great leader-the large majority of NHC. Dept. Directors and managers that were groomed and promoted under Bruce are operated on the old plan-basically do and say whatever you want and blame it on the lower ranks if things go wrong-which translates to: Do as little as possible and cover your but with meanness and power plays. The new management is requiring customer service as they should. These NHC jobs are needed positions that are paid for by US, the public! we must demand a higher level of service and hold people, including management, accountable for bad service and inadequate supervision and training. You are right Bruce would have never fired her! I think the supervisor should be retrained and held accountable in this case-they allowed this behavior for years!!! maybe even condoned it.

Name one, other than the lawyer from Alamance County, who was not part of the old network? They were all key players for years for Bruce. The only difference is they forgot the high standards he taught them.

Coudriet hasn't been around that long maybe 5 years or so. No doubt they have a ways to go to get the county up
To a higher customer service standard. A starting point is holding all employees accountable and letting them go if they are incompetent or unprofessional. By all means offer retraining and coaching. I would be for allowing the EMS
Dispatcher coaching to learn better skills. If she as miserable as she sounds she ought to consider counseling!

After working in EMS for 12 years, I really wanted to side with the dispatcher on this. It's a hard job and the stress can get to a person at times. BUT... this dispatcher was obnoxious. Her tone was condescending and argumentative. That signals to me that the problem is more than just a tough shift wearing her patience. It's a clear attitude problem. She needs a new line of work.

After working as a 9-1-1 dispatcher for more than 20 years, I really wanted to point out that I think you're quite wrong. I am aware of only one of my colleagues who likes working the EMS channel. Why? Because it's one of the most frustrating channels we have. I sincerely wish you and every medic employed in this county would come spend just one night shift with us, listening to what WE hear on your channel. I realize medics see a lot of stressful things while performing their job. I get it. I was a medic for 10 years. However, the way medics speak to us on the radio is appalling. We bend over backwards to do things the way you want them done, even though it causes extra work for us on one of the busiest channels we have. What do we get in return? Snippy and sometimes downright rude responses. Your agency demands that we create a report for each standby. EACH. STANDBY. You demand that we pad your numbers by creating a report each time you are given a standby. Do you know that sometimes - frequently, in fact - we generate 3 or 4 reports that are ALL for the SAME standby? We tell a unit to do a standby. We create a report. Another unit then keys up and says they'll handle the same standby so the first unit doesn't have to. So then we generate another report. Then yet another unit says THEY will do the standby. Yep...another report. Waste of our time as dispatchers, and it forces us to falsify documentation by creating reports that will pad your stats even though you never actually had to go do the standby because another unit said they'll do it.

Regarding your condescending tone comment...you really need to come sit with us one night and listen to the radio traffic from our side of the transmission. I guarantee you'll be appalled by what you hear coming from your fellow medics. But you know what? You don't even really need to come sit with us to hear this. Just pay attention to the comments spewed all night long by a certain unit whose number starts with a 2 or another unit whose number ends with a 4. And those 2 are only the most glaring examples.

Perhaps SEVERAL of our medics need a new line of work.

About time.....she has been talking to callers like this for the past 5 years that I know of personally and she has been getting away with it cause no one will call her out on it...She is always causing confusion in the 911 center..she is one of the biggest liers I have ever came across...Maybe she can sit home for a while and think on her actions....the same group of people she hate is the same group of people that she talked trashed to and it caused her her Job this time....

Really??? You fired her for THAT? Wow. This "kinder gentler" law enforcement crap has to go. She handled a freaking murder call. How many of those do you even get ayear? She was firm and tried to get information that was for the safety of the officers responding. This politically correct crap is going to get an officer killed.

Are you serious? A responder should expect the worst and be prepared anyway. If I call 911, they are getting the situation, a address, and my best judgement as to whether it's safe, then a dial tone/dead line. The end.All they need.

Thank you New Hanover County for getting rid of this rude, unprofessional operator who has no business working in a "helping profession," especially one funded by my tax dollars. A wild baboon would have handled that call more appropriately than this fool did.

Hey Windy, if you can do better, try it. I bet money you couldn't run a radio and field a hysterical caller at once. Wild baboon? You wouldn't make it, guaranteed.

It's easy for the general public and the media to pick apart a worker's actions involving public safety. It takes a special person to answer the frantic phone calls then switch to answering one that's not an emergency. That dispatcher has to take control of the situation in seconds so he or she can send an appropriate response.

The dispatcher could have taken control of the situation without being rude and condescending to the caller. The caller had just witnessed a MURDER. It is understandable for the caller to be upset and flustered. Perhaps if the dispatcher attempted to calm the caller and used a more respectful tone of voice, the caller would have been able to answer the questions asked. When a person is already under extreme duress (i.e., the CALLER) it does not help things to have a stranger yelling at and belittling you.

Being a 911 operator is a stressful job. After listening to a recording of the call I fail to see where her conduct impeded the response of emergency personel. I think her firing was premature and a suspension would have been a better alternative.

This operator was obviously trying to stay in control of the situation. The girl was hysterical...the first responders were dispatched...the operator was trying to rein this girl in and get clear details to pass to the police....but it was nearly impossible. The media has given more attention to the call itself than to the murderer. It has resulted in someone losing their job. Did the operator DO the job? Yes. Did 911 buckle to the media press? Yes. Another family will suffer financially because of the constant witch hunts conducted by the media.

sounds like a smart ass. in that situation you don't need a 911 operator correcting you...

Teaching is a stressful job. Does that mean it should be okay for teachers to yell at your children as long as they don't impede their learning? Nursing is a stressful job. Does that mean it's okay for nurses to yell at and belittle you when you show up in the ER, as long as your needs eventually are attended to? Waiting tables is a stressful job. Does that mean it's okay for your waiter to talk to you in a rude, condescending manner as long as you get the food that you ordered? There are acceptable standards by which to conduct oneself regardless of the situation or any "personal issues" one may have. As evidenced by the recorded 911 call, the operator was extremely out of line. Not only did she deserve to be fired, but she owes the caller a sincere apology.

Congrats, Windy. If you just compared being an emergency telecommunicator to teaching or waiting tables- you are an idiot.

She knew that going in and if she couldn't handle the stress then she should have chosen another line of work.

She can handle stress. I'm not sure why these dispatchers care about serving a public so quick to ignorantly pick them apart for doing a job many people couldn't do. She was trying to get info to her units and keep them, the bystanders, and neighboring public safe. She absolutely did her job instead of babying this caller. Focus is on the hurt, endangered, and dying in a time like this- not an uncooperative caller. She is a professional and there is no other I'd rather have on my radio.

NHC's fairly new County Manager is all about CUSTOMER SERVICE!!! When you work with the public and most especially when you work with members of the public who are in serious trouble; you have no right and certainly no permission to be rude, mean or disrespectful! Firing was the exact right thing to do! More than likely firing should have happened long ago! We don't know that for sure, but if her current behavior is any indication of her normal attitude and work style then yes, she should be gone and anyone else that is or wants to be a "Public Servant" should take heed and either learn to do your job to the best of your ability, get coaching from HR in a hurry or leave now!!!

You must be from the palace down the hall. The only thing the new manager and his henchmen in the palace suite have done is made everyone fear for their jobs. The morale is the lowest I've seen since I've been with the county. Why didn't the press pull Letha's personel file. I know why, it's because they cleaned it out so you won't see the good things she's done. They are all about themselves and passing out favors to make themselves look good. This place is a joke anymore.