A 911 operator accused of deliberately hanging up on emergency calls is being sought by New Orleans police.
Precious Stephens, 25, is being sought on charges of “malfeasance in office and interfering with an emergency communication,” according to the New Orleans Police Department. Stephens had been working with the Orleans Parish Communications District, but was allegedly dropping the emergency calls without taking any critical information down or forwarding the calls to other dispatchers for assistance, reported NOLA.com.
The district noticed trouble in late August when it first reported to police that Stephens had intentionally disconnected a 911 call without getting the necessary information to follow or notifying other dispatchers for assistance.
“Working as a 911 operator with the Orleans Parish Communications District at the time, she is wanted for allegedly disconnecting 911 calls deliberately without obtaining necessary emergency information or relaying such emergencies to the other dispatchers for aid,” the NOPD stated.
An investigation, in which the district conducted a random set of calls directed towards Stephens during her shifts on August 20th and 21st, resulted in Stephens being fired immediately and her information forwarded to the police for prosecution.
A statement was issued by the district regarding the matter:
“[The district] has and will continue to cooperate with the … investigation into this matter and dedicated to providing any and all assistance to aid in [the] efforts.”
Reactions on Twitter were overwhelmingly negative:
When she needs help, who she’s going to call?
— Paul Christen (@P_Christen1) September 2, 2021
Why does someone do that. Putting others in more jeopardy.
— Fiona Johnson (@FionaJo90331745) September 2, 2021
— Jay Chase (@jaychase28) September 3, 2021
Anyone with information related to the whereabouts of Precious Stephens is encouraged to call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111. There is a potential cash reward for tipsters with highly pertinent information.
This is not the first time a New Orleans 911 operator has been in legal hot water. In April 2015 LaQuana Ruffin was reportedly fired by the New Orleans Police Department for hanging up on 911 callers. Ruffin had attempted to appeal the decision to terminate her, but the New Orleans Civil Service emphatically agreed with the police department’s decision to fire her in a scathing statement:
“There is no doubt that residents of New Orleans put a great deal of faith in the 911 emergency call system. When an emergency call-taker actively hangs up on a caller, he or she is committing an act of betrayal.”
According to the New Orleans Police Department, Ruffin hung up on two officials conducting an investigation into her deliberately, but records indicated she may have hung up on well over 100 callers. This had come during a critical manpower shortage that caused the police department’s response times to soar from 3 minutes and 39 seconds in 2010 to over 12 minutes by 2015.
Hanging up on 911 callers can lead to a charge of malfeasance in office. According to Louisiana law, malfeasance in office is defined as unlawfully performing a job in public service. Being found guilty can land you up to 5 years in prison.
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