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Councilmembers question OPCD Chief about recent flubs of 911 calls

Director Tyrell Morris defended some of the actions, but he said some of the instances resulted in call takers being fired.

NEW ORLEANS — On Tuesday, the New Orleans City Council questioned the Orleans Parish Communications District about recent flubs of 911 calls.

The director, Tyrell Morris, defended some of the actions, but he said some of the instances resulted in call takers being fired.

One of the incidents Morris spoke about was a story Eyewitness News reported last month.

Cindi Richardson told Eyewitness News she called 911 five times within 90 minutes when her husband, Karo, was having a heart attack, but an ambulance never arrived.

“If you’re not sending an ambulance, just tell me so I can put him in the car and get him the help that he needs," Richardson said.

Richardson said she told the 911 call taker her husband was experiencing arm pain and explained he had a history of heart problems.

“90 minutes for an ambulance. Unfortunately, OPCD does not control unit availability. But in this case, we did identify that there may be time for a protocol change to identify arm pain as a priority symptom," Morris said.

Richardson said Morris reached out to her personally saying they would change the protocol.

“I’m glad he’s following up with that. I do appreciate it," Richardson said.

Morris said the call taker in Richardson's incident was found to be in full compliance with agency standards.

However, in Tyler Ellis's case, the call taker was not.

“One of the most heartbreaking situations that I can say is an embarrassment to the organization and does not speak to the high level of service we provide was a 911 call received to report a juvenile shot," Morris said.

15-year-old Ellis died last month after an officer was dispatched to the wrong address.

Family members told Eyewitness News that after four calls to 911, the family rushed him to the hospital themselves.

“We erred in that regard, and I do think the call taker’s actions absolutely led to a delay in response," Morris said.

Morris said that the call taker was fired.

Experiences like these and others mentioned in a letter from Councilmember Moreno to Morris are leaving folks in New Orleans doubtful.

"Now I feel like I have a 50/50 chance of getting help if I need it or just being left to my own devices. And that’s not a good feeling when you’re 63," Richardson said.

Some councilmembers questioned Morris about his workload. He was recently appointed head of the Mayor's crime task force.

“To answer the question about too many things on my plate, while I appreciate the sentiment, I’m grown. I can handle my workload," Morris said.

Morris also said the OPCD has 35 job openings and is seeing a 20% increase in calls over last year.

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