911 operator who told drowning woman to ‘shut up’ cleared of wrongdoing

by Editorial Team

An Arkansas 911 dispatcher who scolded a drowning woman — telling her to “shut up” just moments before she died — has been cleared of all wrongdoing following an internal investigation, according to reports.

Fort Smith dispatcher Donna Reneau sparked outrage in August after audio was released of her callous response to Debbie Stevens, 47, who was trapped in her car by floodwaters that eventually killed her.

“You’re not going to die. I don’t know why you’re freaking out,” Reneau snapped at Stevens at one point, leading to hundreds of complaints about her disrespectful response, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said.

Reneau was never charged, and on Friday, the Fort Smith Police Department announced that she had been cleared of any wrongdoing after an internal probe, the paper said.

“Despite the manner in which Reneau spoke to Stevens, I can find no indication of negligence in Reneau’s actions in dispatching first responders, nor in the actions of those who responded to the scene,” wrote Dean Pitts, the police department’s deputy director of administration, who led the internal review.

“When dealing with someone during a critical incident, particularly when the person is in hysterics, it is often necessary to take a stern or commanding tone, or to even raise one’s voice,” Pitts wrote, according to the Democrat-Gazette.

Reneau was on her last day as a 911 operator when the call was made, having turned in her notice two weeks earlier.

She could’ve been deemed to have broken human resource standards if she’d still been an employee — but nothing to “merit a measure of discipline as strict as termination,” Pitts wrote.

Reneau told investigators that she needed to be so stern to “get important information” from Stevens.

“She regretted telling her she was not going to die most of all, but she also regretted not being more kind and understanding,” the report stated.

“Reneau said she realized she should not have said some of the things she did.”

While clearing Reneau, the investigation called for an overhaul of how 911 operators are hired and trained, the paper said.

READ FROM SOURCE: https://nypost.com/2019/12/23/911-operator-who-told-drowning-woman-to-shut-up-cleared-of-wrongdoing/

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