911 Dispatcher in Hot Water Over Off the Cuff Remarks About Racism

An emergency dispatcher was recently suspended as a result of comments he made about Oprah Winfrey while a coworker was taking a call in relation to the death of famed poet Maya Angelou. During the call, which was made by Angelou’s caretaker, an emergency dispatcher’s voice appears in the background discussing controversial comments that Winfrey made during an interview with the BBC last fall, and the public reaction to them.

The Forsyth County emergency dispatcher at the center of the controversy was placed on suspension with pay while the department investigates the comments. The director of Forsyth County EMS, Dan Ozimek, said that the comments were unacceptable and that an internal investigation would look into the circumstances surrounding them.

The controversial comments included a portion in which the emergency dispatcher, talking about racism, said that “There are still generations of people, older people, who were born and bred and marinated in it”. He went on to say that such people “just have to die.” Though the comment may well have been used as a figure of speech, such commentary may be viewed as particularly problematic when expressed by a person who is responsible for helping save people’s lives.

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Emergency dispatchers have been in the public eye ever more as of late as a result of the increasing amount of information leaking out of the nation’s 911 dispatch call centers. Because practically everything that happens in such centers is prone to being recorded, even mundane commentary can be recorded and later exposed. For his part, the operator involved in this latest scandal acknowledged that he works in a high profile job, and that everything is recorded.

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