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Officer Murdered, Post-Incident Focus on Dispatchers

During the post-murder investigation of Arlington (Tex.) Off. Jillian Michelle Smith, police officials discovered that a 911 calltaker and a radio dispatcher did not follow the proper procedures, thereby putting officers in jeopardy when they responded to the incident scene. Fire chief Don Crowson, whose department manages the city’s joint police-fire comm center, said the mistakes did not lead to or contribute to Smith’s death last December. But the errors were significantly dangerous. Dispatcher Joan Ware was fired today for not following proper procedures, and 911 calltaker Martha Kimball resigned earlier. Police chief Theron Bowman said dispatch procedures have been changed to send two officers to every report of a domestic assault, even if the suspect is reported to have left. In this case, a woman dialed 911 to report an assault by her boyfriend. She said the man had left in a car. Smith arrived and, police later learned, the boyfriend arrived within two minutes and quietly entered the apartment where Smith was talking to the victim. The boyfriend then became angry, shot and killed Smith, then chased his girlfriend to a bedroom and fatally shot her. The man then returned to Smith, took her gun and shot himself. The woman’s daughter was present, but escaped and ran to a neighbor for help. The neighbor dialed 911 while driving back the apartment, but couldn’t give an exact address. According to Bowman, the dispatchers failed to connect the shooting 911 call with Smith’s incident, failed to tell officers that the daughter had said an officer had been shot, and didn’t collect other caller and witness information. Read more about the incident and read the police crime report here.

7 comments… add one

  • Yvonne April 28, 2011, 6:37 am

    I understand that policy/procedures must be followed; I’ve been dispatching for 10 years, supervising for most of that time.

    We’ve had our fair share of incidents…BUT it’s also up to the ZONE PARTNER, OTHER ROAD UNITS, AND ROAD SUPERVISOR to listen and pay attention to the radio. IF dispatch is mandated to send 2, then the supervisor on the road (at the very least) should have responded, or sent a unit to back Smith.

    Had another officer been there, the perp would have still sneaked in and the agency would be burying multiple officers.

    It’s a sad situation and I’m sorry for their loss.

  • Leiton April 28, 2011, 7:11 am

    I am curious as to what policies were not followed. Based on this article and the local news article, I am reading that the policy to send two officers to ALL domestic disturbance calls was put into affect AFTER this incident.

    Policies which may have been violated is on the dispatchers involved. Yes, other units and patrol supervisors should be monitoring as a backup, but the dispatcher(s) should know, understand, and follow the policies of the department.

    Prayers are with everyone involved directly and indirectly.

    • GAry April 28, 2011, 11:58 am

      My impression is that it was entirely POST-incident that prompted the firing and resignation, even though they later implemented a two-officer rule afterwards. The police report isn’t specific on exactly what when wrong post-incident. But, I believe: the daughter ran to the neighbor, who then called 911. But that call wasn’t immediately put out as “officer shot.” That occurred because the caller didn’t provide an exact address that matched where the officer already was. Instead, officers were sent when Off. Smith failed to answer a timed “are you OK?” radio check.

  • imnotrich May 3, 2011, 9:12 am

    Dispatchers failed to relay to units that an officer had been shot?

    Seriously? Where did you find these highly qualified dispatchers?

  • Kelly R. Rasmussen February 3, 2012, 1:23 pm

    It makes me wonder what else is going on?

  • Mark February 22, 2012, 11:42 am

    According to the police report, officers were aware that an officer was shot at that location. It seems that there is some blame being passed to dispatch that should go other places. We dispatchers don’t have the, “Blue wall” to stand behind… shame.

  • MLF August 7, 2013, 10:52 pm

    I used to work for this department and worked with these women. I can assure you, the mistake is not fully being made aware of. A supervisor was aware of this and standing by giving verbal recommendations. Very convenient considering there is no written trace…. Joanie Ware followed every bit of protocol, which is why she has her job back. Martha screwed up, bad. But she screwed up after the call came in that Officer Smith had been shot. …. And yes, the protocol has been changed AFTER the death of an officer. Placing blame when all the facts are not known is irresponsible to say the least.