999 job loss woman has appeal dismissed

Essex County Standard: Sue Heeney. Sue Heeney.

POLICE chiefs have upheld a decision to sack a 999 call handler for not treating an emergency call seriously enough.

Sue Heeney took a call from Paul Turner, who was reporting a drink driver.

She shared a joke with the caller over the phonetic alphabet.

Ms Heeney, 38, of Mandeville Road, Marks Tey, said the joviality helped to put Mr Turner at ease and allowed her to get the information she needed.

Mr Turner described her as professional and calm.

However, Ms Heeney was sacked for gross misconduct after bosses cited concerns about the way she graded the call and said laughing was inappropriate.

Ms Heeney's appeal has been thrown out.

Deputy Chief Constable Derek Benson, who made the final decision, said: “The dismissal for gross misconduct was due to a failure of the staff member to recognise the seriousness of the situation.

“She had received an emergency call from a man who had informed her about a drink driver who had told him he had been involved in a crash and might have hit somebody.

“It is vitally important when emergency calls are made to Essex Police they are assessed correctly and given the appropriate response grading.

“All subsequent police action will flow from those initial decisions and there can be huge consequences for members of the public if these are not carried out correctly.

“The call taker was not dismissed for laughing excessively.

“The manner in which the call was dealt with was unprofessional, but this was not the primary reason for her dismissal.”

Mum-of-two Ms Heeney was unable to comment on the decision because she is pursuing other legal avenues.

Speaking to the Gazette in October, she said people phoning 999 needed to know they are speaking to a friendly human, not a robot.

Ms Heeney said she loved her job at the force’s Springfield headquarters, where she had worked since June 2008.

She took the phone call in November last year, was suspended on full pay a month later and was sacked for gross misconduct in August this year.

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