PHOENIX - The city of Phoenix has released the results of an investigation into the death of a 911 dispatcher who had worked a 15-hour shift just days after recovering from COVID-19.
Pamela Cooper was on her fourth day back as a 911 operator for the city after being home for five weeks while recovering from the virus in February.
She was assigned to work a mandatory hold over due to an unexpected staffing shortage that day, resulting in a 15-hour workday.
The following morning, she was taken to the hospital and died six days later.
The investigation found three policy violations, and it was revealed that Cooper had informed her supervisor that day that if she was mandated to work overtime, she would go home in an ambulance.
The city's report showed messages exchanged between Cooper and her supervisor when she was notified about the overtime.
"I might die, but OK," Cooper sent in a message to her superior.
"Please don't, not on my watch," her supervisor replied.
"I just came back from COVID for a month…I can bearly walk oe [sic] breathe," Cooper responded, according to the document.
The supervisor reportedly did not respond to that message.
"This report also verified the request to work additional hours, however the claims that she would receive discipline if she declined are not supported," read a statement from the city. "Policy changes allowing workers to decline hold over hours during the pandemic were communicated to supervisors and staff."
Officials say Cooper also had a "free pass" that she could have used to be excused from the mandated hold over without repercussions, but it had not been utilized when she was assigned to stay at work.
Other violations reported by the city involved COVID-19 precautions and social distancing.
The report made several recommendations for changes, including "corrective action" for the communications supervisor that mandated the hold over.
The police department has now created a plan to revise employee schedules, which will reduce mandatory overtime for staff by more than 84%, according to the city of Phoenix.
Read the full investigative report: https://www.phoenix.gov/newsroom/city-manager/2020
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