There is a stereotypical image of a government worker as lazy and incompetent who has a job in government because they could not make it in the private sector. They receive protection from the Civil Service system. This stereotype holds for all governments throughout the world. It is especially potent in the US and American humor. Think of postal workers, fat bellied county sheriffs, “military intelligence”, and the humor goes on. We all know that this is not true in 95% of cases. But humor is based on reality. And it is funny, in most cases, but not when it costs a life.
In Georgia (the state, not the country), the Fulton County 911 system employed someone who fit the stereotype of the failed employee and the system fit the stereotype of a failed system. As a result someone looking for help is now dead because the operator and the system failed. The operator did not respond correctly to the call for help and sent emergency workers to an incorrect address. She failed to notice that the call was coming from an entirely different part of town. As a result a woman calling for help did not receive it and she later died. You might be inclined to say “Well that is unfortunate, but people do make mistakes.” However, in this case this 911 operator had a long history of mistakes and problems. In her 12+ years as an operator she had amassed a 2100 page personnel file detailing mistakes in routing calls, sleeping on the job, fights with co-workers and bosses, multiple tardiness and more. Two thousand one hundred pages of personnel file!!!!
The question becomes “Why was this woman still working as an operator with this kind of record?” The answer shows where the system failed. She had been suspended several times. Yet, the civil service system reinstated her each time. I have no idea of the reasoning, but they did. And as a result a woman is dead. To me this intolerable. This is a failed system protecting a failed employee. If this does not cause a “re-think” of the system it should. But I have no hope that it will. That is one of the hallmarks of the stereotypical government system.
By the way, they reassigned the Director of the 911 center (sounds like sports doesn’t it. Players suck so we fire the coach.) They have also suspended the operator, AGAIN. However, she and her attorney have appealed her case to the county Personnel Board. Her case will be heard August 28th. We have another opportunity to see if the system will fail again by reinstating her.
All jokes aside, this time it is no laughing matter.
If you want to read the story click on AJC.