November 22, 2014

Elyria
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Police: Dispatcher botches call about child locked in car

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A 911 dispatcher is in trouble over his response to a mother who called for help after her 10-month-old son accidentally locked himself in her car, police said.

Shana Dees said she put her son Jack in his car seat Saturday afternoon and when she went to move a shopping cart, Jack hit the lock button on the keychain remote, The Tampa Tribune reported. She called 911 because it was hot inside the vehicle and said she was shocked by the dispatcher’s response.

“We won’t be able to try and gain access to the car unless the child is in some kind of distress,” Dees said the dispatcher told her. “And by that point, they may just smash your windows.”

And then he hung up.

Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said the department’s protocol regarding a child locked in a car is to always send an officer and fire rescue to the scene. The dispatcher didn’t even ask the location of the vehicle.

“That’s not how we do business,” McElroy said.

She said disciplinary action could range from a written reprimand to a suspension.

Dees said she was calm while talking to the dispatcher, but after she realized the police weren’t coming, panic set in. The boy had crawled out of his car seat and was starting to become lethargic.

“What do you do when you call the cavalry, and then you’re told the cavalry is not coming today,” she told the newspaper.

An off-duty police officer at the drug store called 911 and spoke to a different dispatcher who sent help.

In the meantime, a nurse grabbed a wrench from the store’s utility closet and smashed the window. By then, Jack had been inside the car for 15 minutes. The nurse got the boy out and poured cool water over Jack’s head.

Dees said she and her husband thanked the nurse, but they didn’t get his name.

“He acted when nobody else did, and we’re very grateful he did that,” she said.

Jack has rebounded, but he’s no longer allowed to play with car keys.


  • Joe Smith

    Always have a spare set of keys for this and other situations. I have the push button entry system and a spare key well hidden in the car and will never buy a car without the push button entry system again.

  • Brandi

    I had 911 tell me they couldn’t help me because I was on a highway. I had a minivan trying to pull me over and run me off the road. A week later a woman’s car was found on the same highway and she was missing. If they would have contacted state highway patrol, this could have been stopped.

    • Summer Smart

      That is a horrible thing to have to experience. Hopefully this does not happen often where you can’t get help from the people who are paid to do it! We are all forced to pay for 911; it is their jobs to help and not make judgment calls. The operator should be fired.

  • christine

    now if want keep occupied with keys give him toy keysand yes have u a spare in purse or pocket