Deputies: 911 dispatcher charged with misconduct after deleting call info
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - The 911 dispatcher who was blamed for failing to transfer an emergency call during a burglary has been arrested.
According to the Charleston County Sheriff's Office, Dezerea Shelton, 27, of Hanahan, was charged with one count of obstruction of justice and misconduct in office after investigators found that she had been deleting or not entering calls for service.
Shelton has been an employee at the Consolidated Dispatch Center since Sept. 9, 2011, after she completed the county's review -- including a criminal background check, a polygraph and a drug test.
She was fired on Sept. 5.
The investigation into Shelton began late last month after city government officials asked about complaints against Shelton for improperly handled calls coming through the 911 Consolidated Dispatch Center.
Investigators found that between Jan. 8 and Aug. 25, Shelton received 45 calls for service that she then deleted and did not pass on for dispatching emergency officials.
According to the sheriff's office, one of the calls were medically related and the others were for law enforcement in North Charleston, Mount Pleasant and several unincorporated areas of Charleston County.DISMISSED CALLS BY THE DATESJanuary: one call on Jan. 8, another on Jan. 22;February: one call on Feb. 6;March: one call on March 2, another on March 28; April: one call on April 2, another on April 24;May: no dismissed calls;June: one dismissed call on June 30;July: three dismissed calls on July 5, one call on July 14, 15, 18, and 19;August: two calls on Aug. 6 and 7, one call on Aug. 8, two calls on Aug. 11, four calls on Aug. 12, one call on Aug. 15, and one call on Aug. 16.
According to a statement released by Charleston County, there were no injuries that were a direct result of Shelton's actions. Officials added that there were no other dispatch employees involved in the incidents.
Charleston County Administrator Kurt Taylor and Charleston County 911 Center Director Jim Lake have been involved in the investigation since the initial complaint.
"Emergency call taking is one of the most critical operations of county government," Taylor said. "It is crucial that the public have confidence that when they call for help, it will be sent immediately. I will not tolerate any employee's failure to perform duties that could affect public safety. We have a great 911 team with outstanding leadership and training. It is unfortunate that this individual failed to do her job."
According to the county's statement, officials have already increased the level of internal reviews for 911 calls that come through the dispatch center.
"Although all calls have been stored for potential review, we have added end-of-shift reports that would more immediately show blank incidents. Each shift supervisor is now reviewing these reports at the end of their shift on a daily basis," said Lake. "Also, we will be conducting our random audits more frequently."
Shelton is being held in the Al Cannon Detention Center. Her bond was set at $40,000 at a hearing Tuesday afternoon.
The arrest comes just two weeks before Isle of Palms is slated to make the switch to consolidated dispatch, but Mayor Pro Tem Ryan Buckhannon wanted to assure residents island officials had taken steps to prevent a similar issue from happening.
Buckhannon said Isle of Palms dispatch would keep someone on the island listening in on calls for the next year as the island joins the county's dispatch system.
"Residents can feel assured that this problem will not happen because we will have someone back up the phone calls," he said. "If a call is not answered, Isle of Palms dispatch will pick up the call."
Buckhannon said the decision to back up Charleston County Consolidated Dispatch came after watching Mount Pleasant and Folly Beach join the program.
"Folly Beach had such an ordeal with it that they dropped out," Buckhannon said. "We took from their experiences. We will have someone listening in the background for our dispatch system making sure things go through as they are supposed to."