For 911 call-taker, a bad time to doze off

Arundel prowler complaint is met with snoring

Anne Arundel

August 05, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

When Patricia Berg phoned Anne Arundel County Police last Thursday to report a possible prowler, the Glen Burnie resident thought she would receive help, and fast.

But before local authorities could respond to her call for assistance, Berg had to wait a few moments - for a tired 911 call-taker to finish his nap.

According to police records, Berg's emergency call about 2:45 a.m. July 29 was delayed for one minute and 42 seconds as Louis Gerber, one of the county's 911 call-takers, fell asleep and snored into the phone.

"Hello?" Berg said a number of times, according to a tape recording of the call.

"Hello ... yes?" an awakened Gerber finally replied.

"I was just wondering if you were still there," Berg said.

"What's the problem?" Gerber said.

"I've already told you. You don't remember me telling you what was wrong?" an exasperated Berg said.

Gerber didn't answer her. But after a few seconds of feverish typing, he confirmed the address Berg had given at the beginning of their conversation.

The call was then passed along to a dispatcher.

The recording of the incident reveals that the short slumber took place during and after Berg's brief explanation of her call - she reported "screeching" noises that sounded like someone was touching the glass panes on her townhouse's sliding door.

The only response she got from Gerber was snoring. In fact, his sleep was only broken when Berg asked him if help was on the way.

Lt. Joseph E. Jordan, a county police spokesman, said police officials are looking into the incident and whether disciplinary action is warranted against the decade-long county employee. Gerber could face actions ranging from a written warning to dismissal.

Jordan noted that Berg's information was ultimately taken down and police were dispatched to her home. No prowlers were found at Berg's address, he said, and no one was hurt.

Gerber, who has worked as a call-taker for the county since 1993, declined to comment on the incident, which was first reported yesterday by WBAL-TV. He said he was taking a previously scheduled vacation.

In an interview last night, Berg said she at first wondered why the call-taker was so quiet. Then she heard light snoring.

"I'm thinking, `Oh my God, he did fall asleep?' " she said. "I decided something's not right here."

After police officers drove by her house and saw nothing unusual, Berg said, she phoned the call center supervisor to register a complaint about Gerber. She said she was told the matter would be taken up with him.

Jordan said Gerber is one of 78 civilian employees who answer phones or dispatch units at the county's 24-hour emergency call center. The center directs police, fire and medical personnel to county residents.

Said Jordan: "We're trying to find out why this happened and to take steps to ensure that something like this doesn't happen in the future."

To hear the 911 call, go to www.baltimoresun.com/sleep.

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