Detroit 911 operators express concerns about conditions inside call center weeks after employee dies from COVID-19

Several DPD 911 call center employees concerned about working conditions
Several DPD 911 call center employees concerned about working conditions

DETROIT – Weeks after a 38-year-old Detroit 911 operator died from coronavirus (COVID-19), his co-workers are expressing concerns about the working conditions inside the 911 call center.

Several employees talked to Local 4, but didn’t want to be identified for fear of losing their jobs.

One worker said, “We feel like they don’t give a (expletive) about us. Honestly.”

Another one said, “If we decided not to come to work, the city would shut down.”

So, they continue to come into work, where they are close by each other and working long hours. The workers also said they were forced to reuse gloves and masks.

They said co-workers tested positive for COVID-19 and there was no hot water in the bathrooms, but that was fixed.

Detroit police Cmdr. Melissa Gardner spoke about the social distancing concerns.

“So, what we have done, when we talk about social distancing and how this is going to look like, on our impact floor, what we done is that we tried to separate them by every other person. Because of certain setups, we had to move them and station them separately in other areas on the floor," she said.

She also addressed the long hours.

"We do have times where members are going to work 16 hours shifts. In this unique circumstance, at one point we had 1/3 of our staffing out due to a COVID-19 situation. Therefore it did force members to longer hours of work,” Gardner said.

Sources said multiple workers tested positive for the the illness.

“As of to this date, we had 38 members test positive, including myself,” Gardner said.

Gardner said it’s no secret COVID-19 hit the force hard and quickly, and it left them with little time to prepare.

“They provided us with a mask. They say it’s not enough to be issued daily. We have to use it until it’s soiled," a worker claimed.

But Gardner said, they did offer new equipment to employees if materials were unable to provide necessary protection.

“I do know that sometimes communicating our message, it can be taken differently, but at no point would we not provide for our members, should they need new gloves or masks," she said.

Gardner said the goal is to make sure everyone is safe.

“Our goal is to make sure we’re listening to our members and providing them with the necessary tools to be able to do their job in a safe environment," she said.

About the Author:

Larry Spruill Jr. joined the Local 4 News team in January 2018. Prior, he worked at WJAX in Jacksonville, Florida. Larry grew up as a military kid because his father is a retired Chief of the United States Air Force.