'I get to smoke weed': Augusta 911 dispatcher's hot mic moment leads to internal investigation

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Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The tape was rolling when a 911 dispatcher's microphone accidentally went live as she seemingly admits to getting high on the job. But Augusta 911 says it's all a misunderstanding.

It sparked a two-fold investigation, first by the Augusta 911 officials, then turned over to the city's legal department. The city has not named the dispatcher, and neither is News 12 because the employee has not been charged with anything. Additionally, officials say an internal investigation cleared her.

"You know what I love about this, too," the dispatcher rhetorically asked. "I get to smoke weed."

This can be heard through an audio recording obtained by News 12. The roughly 20-second recording continues with what sounds like a second voice responding to the dispatcher, "Ain't that bad?"

The dispatcher begins to laugh afterward.

Then, a brief pause happens, in which someone from the Augusta Fire Department clicks in saying, "Dispatch, you got an open mic." The dispatcher adds, "10-4," acknowledging she is now aware of what happened.

The incident happened at 10:01 a.m. Tuesday. At that time, it appears there were no conflicting 911 emergencies. News 12 checked the ARC E911 Twitter page, the only incidents happening around the time of the dispatcher mishap were a traffic hazard reported around 9:35 a.m., two separate missing persons reports at 10:12 a.m. and 10:29 a.m., and a traffic accident with no injuries at 10:47 a.m.

However, at no point during that time was a dispatcher high on the job or risking lives, according to Augusta 911 officials.

“This employee was in a conversation with two other employees of the 911 Center wherein the recorded employee was quoting what a 3rd party, non-employee had said to her when her microphone went live for an unknown reason,” Director Daniel Dunlap said in a statement to News 12.

We reached out to the sheriff's office about this incident to see if anyone responded or checked on this dispatcher, but a spokesperson with RCSO tells us to their knowledge, no one, including the zone supervisor, heard anything of this. Adding, it is not uncommon for dispatchers to have an open microphone from time to time, but when it does happen, RCSO says "someone on the other end of the radio calls and lets them know pretty quickly."

Augusta 911 say they did not drug test the employee on Tuesday morning but that dispatchers are subject to random drug tests throughout the year because they're considered to be in a safety-sensitive job position.

There is a city policy that addresses additional drugs tests can happen, but only if there is "reasonable suspicion" for it. Reasonable suspicion under the policy is defined as "articulable observations concerning the appearance, behavior, speech, or body odors of an employee."

Although it seems like the audio recording falls under reasonable suspicion, Director Dunlap says two other employees corroborated that the dispatcher was not high and only re-telling a story. Further saying, there were no physical conditions like odor or appearance that would indicate the dispatcher was a risk to the center or your 911 emergencies.

Here's the full statement from Augusta 911:

The Augusta 911 Center is aware of an incident in which a dispatcher was heard on a radio channel saying, “And you know what I love about this too? I get to smoke weed. Ain’t that bad?” The Augusta 911 Center has done a thorough investigation into this matter and it has been determined that this employee was in a conversation with two other employees of the 911 Center wherein the recorded employee was quoting what a 3rd party, non-employee had said to her when her microphone went live for an unknown reason. All employees involved in the conversation were interviewed and corroborated the facts as described above. There were no observations concerning the employee’s appearance, behavior, speech, or body odor that could lead to the reasonable suspicion that the employee was under the influence of marijuana. Additionally, 911 Center dispatchers, including this employee, are safety sensitive positions subject to monthly, random drug testing and there has never been any prior reason to suspect intoxication of this employee.

The Augusta 911 Center recognizes that the language and subject matter of the conversation are not appropriate for the work place and will handle that issue in accordance with Augusta, Georgia policy.

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