Arlington dispatcher wants job back after officer's death




Posted on October 11, 2011 at 9:36 PM

ARLINGTON — A 911 dispatcher for the City of Arlington took the stand Tuesday in a fight to get her job back.

The city fired Joan Ware earlier this year. The dispute is over the way she handled communications when rookie Officer Jillian Smith was shot and killed last December.

Ware is accused of consciously withholding information in Officer Smith's fatal shooting, including failing to relay the fact that an officer had been shot. It is alleged that the absence of that information could have placed other officers in harm's way.

In court, Ware acknowledged that police officers responding to the incident were not alerted to the shooting, but she maintained that she did the best she could under the circumstances.

Ware testified she followed procedures by saying there were "individuals shot" rather than an "officer down."

But city attorneys said Ware failed to treat the situation as an emergency because she didn't believe the 911 call from a child who said her mom's boyfriend shot an officer.

"Sometimes the citizens don't really see. They report something that's not really happening," Ware testified.

Ware explained that in her nine years on the job, many children made prank calls. In Officer Smith's case, she didn't believe the caller, but sent two officers out anyway as a precaution.

But city officials said Ware let nearly 15 minutes go by without communicating with Officer Smith.

"There was some time; I don't think it was a large amount of time, because I think I called her twice on the radio, several pages."

The fired dispatcher believes she performed to the best of her ability. "To me, that's my main thing. I want to keep them safe. That's my job," Ware said.

It could be weeks before she finds out if she will get that job back. If she does, Ware wants to be paid for the time since she was terminated.

City officials maintain that reinstating Ware would be detrimental to the department.