Dispatcher who scolded drowning victim says she liked to ‘help people in a time of an emergency’

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She told co-workers she would consider working part-time at the department

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA) — A dispatcher who has gone viral after telling a drowning victim to “shut up”, “this will teach you” and “I don’t know why you’re freaking out”, told Fort Smith Interim Police Chief Danny Baker and Officer Julio Solis during an exit interview she thinks more needs to be done behind the scenes for dispatchers.

Donna Marie Reneau, who previously was ‘dispatcher of the year’ at the Fort Smith Police Department, resigned Aug. 23, the same day she scolded drowning victim Debra Stevens during a 22-minutes 9-1-1 call, which she was thankful that Baker “personally reached out to her to check on her after the traumatic incident”.

Bettering work conditions

When asked what would better work conditions at the police department Reneau said she wanted to answer with a quote. She said, “Mean what you say and do what you say you’re going to do.”

Donna Reneau Full
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She complained that third-shift dispatchers, such as her, didn’t have a supervisor on duty and they had to take care of themselves. She said she didn’t technically have a supervisor for five years.

Third-shift supervisors do have a supervisor, but the supervisor works first-shift and Reneau said he was not available if dispatchers needed him.

Reneau also suggested dispatchers get a “distress break” after taking a high-stress call.

What’s next

She told Baker and Solis she was accepted into the cardiovascular Technology program at Arkansas Tech University.

She told Baker and Solis she would consider a part-time position with the department.

Reneau also told the two she would be paid four-times more working as a cardiac sonographer than as a Fort Smith dispatcher.

Even more, she told them she would consider working part-time at the department.

Arkansas governor addresses the matter

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he has listened to the 9-1-1 call.

“The call was unacceptable. Everybody who listens to that or reads the transcript of it recognizes they want to have someone on the 9-1-1 operator side who has compassion, who is clear-headed, and particularly under those dire circumstances… this is something she is going to have to live with,” Hutchinson said.

He said this emphasizes the need for more telecommunication training.

“We need to continue training or 9-1-1 responders, and it’s important to note that we have through our last legislative session, invested more in our 9-1-1 systems.”

Hutchinson said this will provide more efficiency.

“Hopefully through that, there will be enhanced training.”

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