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UNF Spinnaker

UPD investigates dispatch case

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].

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Comments (8)

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  • K

    Kenneth HabiJun 22, 2010 at 2:07 am

    It is unfortunate that the treatment of this issue was so shallow on the Spinnaker’s part. But the passive and apathetic approach shouldn’t surprise anyone who routinely ineracts with undergraduates, even those journalist activists who staff student managed newspapers on campus. Instead, a third hand account is delivered by the writer of the article who clearly lacks an understanding of what racial profiling means at its essence and seeks to cheapen the meaning of the word by applying it to this situation. The communications major, as well, used the word stereotype in an appropriate manner, the dispatcher after all, used three racial groups in trying to collect suspect information from the caller. Stereotyping must be applied to a specific group and not all groups, for example if I received a call about an inept and uninformed journalist and asked, “Is it a writer from the Spinnaker?”, I would be stereotyping. If I were to ask, “Is it a writer from the Times-Union, the Spinnaker, the Navigator, or the Daily Record,” I would not be stereotyping. Racial profiling also has the prerequisite requirement for an action, usually enforcement in nature, directed toward a specific group. This was obviously not the case sice a dispatcher can’t take any enforcement action sitting in a remote location.

    I am also wondering why the writer elected to contact a relatively new organization, IAED and their national arm of NAED, in the field of emergency dispatching, instead of contacting APCO (Assoc. of Public Safety Communications Operators), established since 1935. IAED seems more interested in lobbying for their dispatcher state regulations so they create a market and demand for their certification program than anything.

    NENA’s (National Emergency Number Association), another association of emergency dispatchers states the following guideline for determining the race of a suspect is stated as follows:

    “A person’s race is stated either as a code when written or a word when spoken. The acceptable codes and words are as follows:


    Could this organization be maligned with the word racial profiling or stereotyping because they are so narrowly focusing on four race groups in their training guidelines for dispatchers?

    Of course this blog only caused the staff writers to rise up against everyone who wanted to discuss the article objectively. As for being a professional news organization, look at other news sites and check their blogs to see if their writers and staff have to fight so hard to defend their articles. Bojangles was right, the words lawsuit and racial profiling clearly appear in the article, what didn’t appear in Bojngles comments was the word libel. The use of the words black, white, or hispanic as “narrow” is not accurate. Clearly those three racial groups make up the vast, not narrow, majority of the population in Duval County, in Florida, and in the United States.

  • J

    Jonathan MoralesApr 14, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Bojangles (UPD):

    You start your comment with a link to a blog. Then you go into some “intelligent” discussion about “racism” and “law suits”, items that were never a part of the story. Race card wont apply and the law suits were spoken of in hypothetical context. You probably dont read any news publications, like the Spinnaker, because you would rather keep up to speed with events through “objective””blogs”. Sorry, I cant put (objective) and (blog) together. As for the Spinnaker not reporting objectively, I take that as a personal jab to our news organization. We ARE objective, professional, and we do a damn good job of keeping students informed.

    I hear USA Today has wonderful graphics… maybe you like those?

  • A

    AndreaApr 13, 2009 at 11:43 am

    It looks like some people are missing the point here. So let me explain to you: The most effective dispatch protocols have been created for the purpose to get the most accurate information in least time possible. These protocols have been developed over thirty years now. If UPD decided not to use standardized protocols as other private emergency companies have, it’s ok but it doesn’t mean they can respond to their calls the way they want. Racial profiling is strictly forbidden in US. There is a reason why JSO, Atlantic Beach, and other counties do not ask for particular race – because you prompt people and they are more likely to give you inaccurate information. It’s simple as that. I am very glad Mora reported what happened. That’s how things get changed to better. And UPD should appreciate it, it keeps them in check and honest and it makes them a better agency.

  • J

    Joe SwansonApr 8, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Wow…this a serious issue for you? Really? Someone simply prompting another with races so as not to ask an open-ended question that delays an officer’s response as people fish around for whatever correct term to use? In my experience, when you ask someone a question that can have multiple responses, and they are under some sort of pressure, however slight, that person suddenly has a limited capacity to reason through questions and begins to, for lack of a better word, bumble through some sort of answer that leaves the asker with just more impertinent questions. It’s called cutting through the fat by prompting someone with the most likely answers to their questions, and I’m sure we’ve all used this style, regardless of the question. I can almost guarantee that you’ve asked, at some point, a question that was not immediately answered and instead of waiting, because you desperately needed the answer, plowed through maybe 3 or 4 possible, or likely, answers, to your question.
    Again, it’s the most likely answers based either upon personal experience with subjects and the likelihood of the subject’s race depending on the population with which you are dealing. You may call it racial profiling, which is absurd, or you can call it a classic interrogation technique designed to jumpstart a person’s brain into thinking what race the suspect(s) is/are without waiting on them to process the question.
    If it saves someone wrongly accused of being racist, thus smearing her in the eyes of the university campus, then I say send it off to a crime lab, as you suggest Morales, because at least I’d have a clear conscious about it. I wouldn’t mind even footing the bill. I’d rather see a reporter slapped on the wrist for wrong reporting than see someone I essentially use as a lifeline go down because I was talking over her when she asked if the suspect I was seeing run around with a weapon was “white, black or Hispanic”. That’s what I call hanging someone out to dry. Or am I allowed to use hanging? Is that a racist term now too?

  • B

    BojanglesApr 8, 2009 at 8:33 pm


    Though the above link is a blog and not officially from a police department, it sheds some insight as to why dispatchers ask the questions they do. Asking such a broad question as “What race are him/her/they?” allows for confusion, as told by the writer of the above blog.

    For any department, the primary goal is to get officers where they are needed ASAP. If the suspect would have attacked a student with the supposed knife, while a dispatcher was being cautious not to step on anyone’s toes by asking “What race is the person?”, would that have not been more of an issue?

    It is interesting to note that this issue of “racism” was not an issue until Mr. Mora reported it to the Spinnaker. UPD and other departments have used “Is the person white, black or Hispanic?” for many years.

    Rebecca, it seems that the threat of a lawsuit is merely a way for UPD to be pressured into admitting that the dispatcher was wrong, when it was proven that she said “white, black, or Hispanic”.

    Also, when I read the news, I expect a correct account of what happened, unbiased reporting, and the truth. This is why I rarely ever read news publications, especially The Spinnaker.

  • R

    RebeccaApr 3, 2009 at 6:47 pm


    The dispatcher could have asked, ‘What race is the person?” but that is not what happened.

    Deliberately asking about some races while leaving others out is racial profiling; it’s as simple as that. And racial profiling should not be tolerated on any level, or at any police department. And I’m sure if someone approached JSO about a similar situation, it would be taken seriously because any organization up against a lawsuit understands how big of a deal it is. And any news organization-yes, even the Spinnaker-is smart enough to recognize and report on news that could potentially lead to a lawsuit against UPD or any other on campus organization.

    Maybe you should look at your views and ask yourself what kind of news you want to hear or expect to read when picking up any paper. Because right now it sounds to me like you don’t want to be informed about serious issues/investigations that this campus and its organizations are facing.

    Maybe we should previous another lecture series for you? Because investigative journalism doesn’t sound like your forte.

  • J

    Jonathan MoralesApr 3, 2009 at 2:08 am

    This all started with a suspicious man walking around the parking garage with a knife, trying to break into unlocked cars.

    The complainant’s allegation is that the dispatcher asked if the suspect was “black or hispanic?” UPD denies, saying she said “white, black or Hispanic?”

    I heard the recorded conversation myself recently and it is very difficult to tell for sure. But the caller paused for a perplexed moment after hearing what he believed the dispatcher to say: “are they black or Hispanic?”

    “uhh he’s white…”

    Again, it was very hard to tell what word was actually said.

    But hell, maybe well even send it off to crime lab and blow this up some more for you Swanson, I think its a great idea.

  • J

    Joe SwansonApr 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    If she said “White, black or Hispanic?”, then what’s the issue? Are you saying that people can’t say the race that others are? Or should people just sit there and list every race on the planet? I’m sure the most interactions between police occur between officers and white, black or Hispanic persons, so why not just start by prompting people with options versus having to wait while a person deliberates on whether or not someone can be determined as a dark skinned Hispanic, light skinned black, or an albino black person versus a tanned white person? This kind of over-reaction to a statement of race shouldn’t be tolerated in the current atmosphere, as racism was clearly not present in this situation. The person who complained, to your paper, not in an official capacity by talking to the police department about it, is a fool if he was offended. The only reason this is even getting press is because most of the people who would agree with your sentiments have never called a large department, such as JSO, with such an incident. Call them if you ever run into someone running around being suspicious, and I can guarantee they will skip the “politically correct” question and delve into details necessary to efficiently send officers out armed with the most correct information possible. Cheers to the Spinnaker for once again blowing things out of proportion.