Bond set at $40K for 911 operator accused of mishandling 45 calls

RAW: 911 operator appears at bond hearing
Dezerea Shelton (Source: CCDC)
Dezerea Shelton (Source: CCDC)

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A judge set bond at $40,000 Tuesday for the 911 operator accused of botching 45 calls over the last few months at the Charleston County Consolidated Dispatch Center.

Charleston County Sheriff's Major Jim Brady said deputies arrested 27-year-old Dezerea Shelton, of Hanahan, around 10 a.m. Tuesday and charged her with obstruction of justice and misconduct in office. 

She was granted a $40,000 bond on the charges during a 2 p.m. hearing.

Brady said investigators found that Shelton improperly handled 45 calls made to the 911 center between Jan. 8 and Aug. 25 this year.  The sheriff's office says Shelton either failed to enter information for the calls, or deleted information.  Furthermore, the calls were not passed on for dispatching, according to investigators.

Of those calls, Brady said one of them was a call for medical service and the others were request for law enforcement assistance in North Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, and other unincorporated areas in the county.  Brady said those agencies were notified of the issues and follow-ups with callers affected were initiated.

In one such instance, a Mt. Pleasant resident said she was watching a group of kids jumping fences and going house to house with a flashlight near Cummings Circle. The kids then got into a car and drove away. The caller said the neighborhood recently experienced a string of break-ins.  After hanging up, the same person called back later and told the dispatcher the car returned with the kids.

The dispatcher is then heard telling the caller she would reopen the previous call.

Jim Lake, the Charleston County 911 Center Director, says he doesn't want the public to lose trust in the county's ability to handle emergencies.

"We don't take an oath of office, however, we have a code of ethics, and our code of ethics prompts us, requires us, our mission, our job is to answer 911 calls and send the appropriate services to answer those calls for help. This was not done. That's a violation of our basic standards and codes."

No other 911 employees were found to have been involved, according to Brady.  The investigation began on Aug. 28, at the behest of Charleston County Government. A press release states county officials requested the sheriff's office to investigate after being informed of complaints that Shelton improperly handled calls for service.

According to county officials, no personal injuries have been reported as a result of Shelton's actions, and the county has increased the level of internal reviews for 911 calls.

"Emergency call taking is one of the most critical operations of county government," Charleston County Administrator Kurt Taylor said. "It is crucial that the public have confidence that when they call for help, it will be sent immediately. I will not tolerate any employee's failure to perform duties that could affect public safety. We have a great 9-1-1 team with outstanding leadership and training. It is unfortunate that this individual failed to do her job."

"Although all calls have been stored for potential review, we have added end-of-shift reports that would more immediately show blank incidents. Each shift supervisor is now reviewing these reports at the end of their shift on a daily basis," said Lake. "Also, we will be conducting our random audits more frequently."

Investigators say Shelton has no criminal record.

"We've not been provided a reason why she did what she did," said Brady.

Shelton had been working at the dispatch center for less than two years, and had not been on duty since the beginning of the investigation.  County officials say Shelton was hired in September of 2011 and released from county employment on Sept. 5.

The dispatch center handles approximately 2,200 calls per day.

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