When a bullet punched through her car’s rear windshield and narrowly missed hitting her in the head, Guadalupe Herrera called 911. Then she waited. And waited. In the end, it took half an hour for the dispatchers to send a Coral Springs, Fla., police officer to the scene. By that time Ms. Herrera had driven herself to a police station.
Part of the reason for the delay has now been revealed by an internal disciplinary report: A 911 supervisor was not paying close attention to the calls coming in.
Instead, it appears she was watching Netflix. Specifically, the dystopian science-fiction movie “I Am Mother,” starring Hilary Swank. It had debuted on the streaming video site two days earlier.
The timeline of the botched response to the June shooting and the supervisor’s online media habits were detailed in an investigation released by the Coral Springs Police Department, and earlier reported this week by The South Florida Sun Sentinel.
In Coral Springs, a city near Fort Lauderdale, the Police Department’s communications center is a busy place. The department employs 220 officers and 100 civilians, and serves a population of about 127,000 residents.
“There’s a lot of stations in the same room,” said Sgt. Carla Kmiotek, a police spokeswoman. “They have dispatchers, call-takers, the person who runs the fire channel, the police channel, and our information channel all together.”
Supervisors are in the room, too. According to Sergeant Kmiotek, between six and eight employees are working eight-hour shifts at any given time. Most of them are wearing headphones, so a supervisor might not overhear the conversation with a 911 caller.
On June 9, Julie Vidaud was the supervisor on duty when Ms. Herrera called in just before 7 p.m. The person who took that call logged it improperly as “suspicious activity” instead of as a “shooting.” At 7:13 p.m., Ms. Herrera called 911 again and said she “got shot at in the car”; she was told an officer would be there as soon as one was available.
Four minutes later, Ms. Herrera called 911 a third time to inform the police that she was going to drive to the nearest police station. A final call to 911 came in at 7:29 p.m. from Ms. Herrera’s sister, to let the police know that Ms. Herrera had arrived.
Ms. Vidaud later agreed with a police investigator that the 911 response had been a “catastrophic failure,” and said that “I failed at that particular call and I hate that.” Once she was aware of the slow response, Ms. Vidaud said, she “did everything that I was supposed to do.”
Despite the delay in dispatching help, a suspect in the shooting has since been arrested.
Attempts to reach Ms. Vidaud on Tuesday were not successful. A 2018 article in The Sun Sentinel noted that as a police dispatcher she had assisted victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting.
The disciplinary investigation revealed that Ms. Vidaud had been streaming movies and TV shows while sitting at her station over the previous month — nearly 10 hours’ worth of Netflix, Hulu and Xfinity combined. Ms. Vidaud told an investigator that, though the Netflix movie was playing on one of her screens when the 911 calls came in, she would not have been watching the film then.
Until recently, though, Coral Springs employees were not prohibited from streaming online media while on the job. And there is no nationwide standard for supervising 911 call centers.
“While supervision is important,” said Harriet Rennie-Brown, a former president of the National Association of State 911 Administrators, “those are decisions that are made at the local 911 center based on their demographics and operational needs.”
Ms. Rennie-Brown, who has 25 years of experience as a 911 dispatcher and supervisor, said there were nearly 5,800 such call centers across the country, all operating under various standards.
Ms. Vidaud was monitoring five screens at the time Ms. Herrera’s calls came in, according to the investigation. At least one screen was quite likely for monitoring something called “computer aided dispatch,” which assists emergency workers in sharing information and getting firefighters, police officers and other responders to a given location.
Netflix will no longer appear on those screens; streaming sites like it are now prohibited under a change in department policy.
According to a police statement issued Monday, an employee who took the 911 calls was fired, and a second employee was disciplined and then fired.
Though the department recommended that Ms. Vidaud serve a two-day suspension without pay, her punishment has yet to be approved by the police chief.
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