Dallas 911 Job Fair Applicant Turns Tragedy Into Triumph

By: Vanessa Brown | CBS 11

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Dallas Police Department is hosting a Communications Career Fair Friday and Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and many view it as a fresh start.

“I’m excited! I think I’ll be working for them soon,” said Latricha Turner, a 911 call taker applicant.

For Rhandi Degrate-Williams, it’s also a chance to turn tragedy into triumph.

“I want to change people’s lives,” Degrate-Williams said.

She’s related to Deanna Cook, the Dallas woman, murdered by her ex-husband Delvecchio Patrick in 2012.

Cook frantically called 911 while he was in the house threatening her.

She’s heard struggling for nine minutes on the call, but it took officers nearly an hour to respond to her home.

After first stopping at 7-Eleven, they knocked, then left when no one answered.

Cook was found dead inside two days later, drowned in a bathtub. Patrick is serving an 85-year sentence for the crime.

The operator who took the call, lost her job. Then DPD Chief David Brown said she failed to relay critical information.

Degrate-Williams said she now wants to be the person on the other end of the phone, helping when moments are critical. She applied to be a 911 call taker on Friday.

“I can help somebody out, I can be that person that actually sends someone out as fast as possible so this never happens again,” she said.

The Dallas 911 system has been under pressure and understaffed in recent months.

Two people, including a baby, died in March. In both cases, loved ones said they had trouble getting through to an emergency operator.

Police are optimistic their two-day fair will bring in hundreds of applicants and, hopefully, relief.

“We need to get people in here, get them in the seats,really help all of us in the police department and the fire department make the city safer,” said DPD Deputy Chief Scott Walton.

The process involves an application, tests, a polygraph and then a later background check.

It could take hours to apply in person and then a few weeks to land the job.

Anyone hired, would receive additional training to obtain a license. The starting salary is a little more than $33,000.

Hiring managers are looking for customer service experience. Latricha Turner said she has the right skills.

“To know how to multi-task and to listen carefully and just get everything correct,” she said.

They’re also searching for people like Degrate-Williamsn with a passion to help.

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