Sunday, May 27, 2018
Public safety

Tampa police dispatcher faces discipline for handling of trapped baby

TAMPA — A Tampa police dispatcher is facing discipline after he failed to send help to a woman who called 911 after her baby got locked inside a car, officials said.

The incident happened Saturday outside the CVS pharmacy at 6206 Commerce Palms Drive in New Tampa. The woman, Shana Dees, called 911 and told the dispatcher that her infant son had the keys to her Acura and had hit the lock button as she moved to load purchases into the car.

Concerned that the baby might succumb to heat exhaustion before a locksmith could arrive, she asked whether police could be sent.

"They won't be able to try to gain access to the car unless the child is in some kind of distress, and by that point, they may just smash your windows," the dispatcher said, according to a recording of the call.

Dees said "thank you," and the dispatcher hung up.

Minutes later, an off-duty Tampa police officer who happened to be in the area called 911 and explained the situation to a different dispatcher. The second dispatcher then sent an officer, but a passerby who was helping out broke a window of the car before the officer arrived.

"The dispatcher's error was in not proactively asking 'Where are you?' and sending an officer and Fire Rescue," said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. "He didn't follow our policy."

The first dispatcher, whose identity has not been disclosed, is being investigated, McElroy said. Investigators have not yet interviewed him, but he is likely to face discipline.

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