I'm a little late to the game here, but I can honestly blame the holidays for the delay. What can I say? Blogging should always fall by the wayside when family is in town.
Anyway, an article in the Wisconsin State Journal (and probably several other news outlets) details the recent suspension of former 911 operator Rita Gahagan in response to how she mishandled the call from slain UW-Madison student Brittany Zimmermann back in April.
While I agree that some form of disciplinary action against Gahagan, who claims she couldn't hear the sounds of a woman screaming and an ensuing struggle (as recently declassified police reports state), and then failed to follow up on the call, is necessary - I don't feel comfortable saying that all blame lies on her shoulders alone.
Gahagan did, after all, request a transfer prior to the incident (why was that, anyway?), and otherwise seems to have had a stellar performance history at the center. Did she mess up on that particular call? It would absolutely appear to be so. But were there (and are there still) system wide problems within the 911 call center? That would also appear to be the case. And we cannot allow officials to sweep all of this under the rug with a simple 3-day suspension of a rank-and-file operator who has long since been demoted to a different department.
Much remains unanswered: Why did the public get several different (and often contradictory) stories from various officials immediately following the murder? Why did some of them then appear to attempt a cover-up of the facts? Why were the police reports "accidentally" unsealed recently? Why didn't Falk and others more quickly and effectively follow up on suggestions made by a consulting company years ago to update the 911 center's equipment and procedures?
We need to keep asking these questions, and demanding answers, until we get to the point where a tragic incident like the one involving Brittany Zimmermann simply cannot happen.