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911 Dispatcher Fired Over Cop’s Death Reinstated

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ARLINGTON (AP) – A 911 dispatcher should get her job back despite violating city policies the night a gunman killed an Arlington police officer, another woman and himself, an arbitrator has ruled.

State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, found that Arlington’s firing of Joan Ware was not reasonable. King, an attorney and a former police officer, did not award Ware back pay for what amounts to an eight-month suspension.

“In her nine years, she had handled similar life-threatening situations apparently without fault or mistake and clearly without having received formal complaints,” King wrote in his ruling issued late Friday, adding that “she is clearly capable of good performance and had demonstrated such throughout her career.”

The Arlington City Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that it is reviewing King’s decision. In a statement, Deputy City Manager Gilbert Perales said the arbitrator’s primary reason for not upholding the termination was “the fact that Ms. Ware had absolutely no disciplinary history in her nine-plus years as a dispatcher. For him to deem it reasonable for her to receive a hefty suspension as she did speaks volumes as to the arbitrator’s opinion of her actions.”

On Dec. 28, 2010, Officer Jillian Michelle Smith was shot in the head while taking a domestic assault report at an apartment complex. Barnes Samuel Nettles, a registered sex offender, also fatally shot his ex-girlfriend, Kimberly Deshay Carter, before killing himself, police said. Carter’s 11-year-old daughter escaped and ran to a neighbor’s apartment to call 911.

The city fired Ware in April after an internal investigation found that she violated city policies after Smith stopped answering her police radio moments after arriving at the apartments.

During a two-day October hearing, city officials told the arbitrator that Ware was derelict in her duties by waiting about 15 minutes to send an officer to check on Smith. Ware didn’t treat the lack of communication with Smith as an emergency and failed to notify officers en route to the complex about a child’s 911 call reporting a police officer had been shot, officials testified.

Ware disputed that her actions endangered officers’ lives, but acknowledged during the hearing to appeal her termination that she failed to follow city policy on responding to a possible officer-in-distress call.

Her attorney, Richard Carter, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Monday that his client is pleased with the ruling and “stands ready to return to the workplace.” Ware declined to comment.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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