Local 2 Investigates: photos appear to show 911 operators sleeping

By Jace Larson - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - The city has launched a personnel investigation after Local 2 Investigates uncovered photos which appear to show 911 operators sleeping on the job.

"Obviously this is concerning and we need to make sure we get to the bottom of it," City Councilman Ed Gonzalez told Local 2's Jace Larson. Gonzalez is chairman of the city's Public Safety committee.

The pictures show people sitting in the 911 call center with headsets on, heads leaning back and eyes closed. Houston Emergency Center spokesman Joe Laud says the people have been identified as employees.

The pictures were posted to the social media site Instagram and at least some are viewable publically.

"We expect call takers, when they are on duty, to be ready to do their work," Laud said. The personnel investigation is in its early stages and Laud said it is too early to place blame. "When instances like this occur, this doesn't signify the whole call floor."

Houston Emergency Center policy records forbid sleeping. The policy was voluntarily released to Local 2 by the Houston Emergency Center.

"Sleeping on duty is strictly forbidden," the rules of conduct policy states. Another policy says cell phones are prohibited on the floor in most cases.  The exception is if the cell phone is a required function of an employee's job.

In one of the photos, a male employee appears to find a sleeping employee humorous. He is shown smiling and giving a thumb up to the camera as a woman sits reclined in her office chair with a headset on and eyes closed.

Another photo shows someone in the 911 call center lying down with a jacket draped over her body.

Some photos posted online appear to violate the ban on cell phone use on the call center floor. One photo is a "selfie." It shows an up close picture of a person's face. She is wearing a headset in the photo.

"We need to make sure there is a thorough investigation and that management is fully aware of what happened," Gonzalez said. "We would like to know the results of the investigation to make sure we have other eyes on this to make sure it doesn't get swept under the rug."

Have a tip about a story Jace Larson should investigate? Call him at 713-778-4929, email jlarson@kprc.com or send a message on Facebook or to @JaceLarson on Twitter.

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