UPD investigates dispatch case

Spinnaker

A letter published in the Feb. 25 issue of the Spinnaker titled “Ashamed of UPD’s stereotyping” has led to further investigation of an incident the writer considered racial profiling, a practice “absolutely forbidden” by the United States Constitution, UPD Chief John Dean said.

Junior communication major Angelo Mora said he witnessed suspicious activity in a parking garage and called UPD to report a man who was trying to open door handles on numerous vehicles.

Mora said the dispatcher asked about the suspect’s race in a manner that disturbed him and was prompted to write a letter to the editor of the Spinnaker.

What ensued was an ongoing investigation at UPD that Dean said has been delayed because of two extenuating circumstances: a broken Dictaphone, which recorded the conversation, and the employee in question being away on maternity leave.

Mora said the dispatcher, identified by Dean as Alecia Kanaby, prompted him to identify the suspect’s race with narrow choices: “Are they black or Hispanic?”

Kanaby, who had been employed by UPD for just more than three months as a civilian dispatcher, left on maternity leave shortly after the incident and was not available for contact through UPD. Various unsuccessful attempts at contact were also made by the Spinnaker.

But Kanaby categorically denied Mora’s claim, Dean said.

Dean quoted Kanaby’s reaction as, “I would never say something like that.”

Dispatchers, who are civilian employees, go through various training including a theoretical part that educates them about bias-based profiling, Dean said.

The exact protocol and specific procedures on how to process incoming calls and respond to an emergency is not addressed by the UPD guidelines, but Dean said he did not approve the way Kanaby responded to the call.

Dean disclosed the preliminary findings indicate that the dispatcher’s words were: “Are they white, black or Hispanic?”

“Typically, they should ask what race the person is,” Dean said.

If the initial method of obtaining suspect information is not sufficient, dispatchers are instructed to ask more specific questions to elicit more useful description.

“I wasn’t satisfied with how I heard it,” he said. “We need to slow [the recording] down and listen to it again.”

Standardized protocols have developed during 30 years with the cooperation of experts from related fields who debate and evolve the standards to ensure accuracy and highest level of efficiency, said Brett Patterson, academics and standards associate at the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED).

IAED also trains and accredits other institutions using these standard procedures. “The state of Florida is even pushing to make the standardization of dispatch mandatory [to avoid liability issues and mishandling of the calls],” Patterson said.

Priority Dispatch, one of the institutions accredited by IAED, trains 911 dispatchers to inquire about the suspect’s race in their protocol; however, prompting the caller to select from offered choices is not common, said Scott Greg, consultant at Priority Dispatch.

Since nobody filed a formal complaint with UPD, Dean referred to his request for investigation as a ‘supervisor inquiry’ but felt it was necessary to determine the true actions of Kanaby rather than terming it an ‘investigation,’ which as he explained indicates greater supervisor attention and a different treatment of the information pertaining to the case.

The internal policy of the department to withhold certain information for 30 days since the beginning of the ‘investigation’ came under scrutiny by Spinnaker staff because of delays in obtaining a copy of the recorded conversation between Mora and Kanaby.

Dean was unable to confirm when the supervisory inquiry started but said Lt. Raheem Roberts would ensure evidence would be collected and evaluated, including interviews with the employee in question and the complainant.

Roberts is heading the supervisor inquiry.

Dean also expressed interest in obtaining a statement from Mora, but UPD did not contact him until March 30, more than one month after the Spinnaker published his letter.

Mora said UPD personally apologized to him for the incident at that time.

Court judgment, in a case of a lawsuit, is made based on whether the act was malicious or just a mistake with no harm intended.

Once the investigation is finished, Dean will determine whether this is a matter of discipline, training or just some additional counseling.

If it is determined Kanaby displayed ill-intent in her actions, Dean said more severe consequences could result.

Dispatch standard operating procedure

Standardized suspect description questioning protocol for emergency operators

• Clothing    • Gender    • Race
• Hair color    • Name    • Address
• Demeanor    • Age    • Eye color
• Complexion    • Build    • Location

Possible questioning surrounding the event

Are you on the scene now?

Is anyone in any immediate danger?

Were weapons involved or mentioned?

Is anyone injured or sick?

E-mail Andrea Farah at [email protected]