DC 911 director Jennifer Greene resigns

The embattled director of the District's 911 center stepped down Monday night after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser asked for her resignation.

Jennifer Greene had been at the helm of an agency that had come under increasing scrutiny for delayed responses to emergencies and other failures.

Greene handed in her resignation after leading the 911 center -- or what is officially known as the Office of Unified Communications -- for the last four years. And it was not without controversy.

Greene had been under fire for an overhaul in technology the firefighters union called a "disaster" as well as questionable responses to the fatal smoke incident inside a Metro tunnel and delay in getting help to a baby choking on grapes.

On Tuesday, the mayor said the city is going in another direction.

Greene's leadership has been under scrutiny for quite some time after Cecil Mills collapsed across the street from a firehouse in January 2014 and no one came to help.

Although a truck was in the station that day, it was never dispatched. When help was finally put on the call, it was sent to the wrong quadrant of the city.

But more recently, investigators discovered it took six minutes before dispatchers at the 911 center began sending help to the L' Enfant Plaza Metro station where people were trapped inside a smoke filled tunnel. One person died in the incident.

The mayor said she is looking for a specialist to run the Office of Unified Communications.

"The big thing I think we are focused on at OUC is it's more technology-based than it is public safety-based in a lot of ways, so we are going to rely on Chris Geldart, who has been an excellent director at our homeland security agency, which is also located in the OUC building to provide us with some interim leadership while we examine closely what the next OUC director needs to do," said Mayor Bowser.

Under the Vincent Gray administration, Greene supervised the rollout of new technology called tablets that were installed in all ambulances, fire apparatus and police cars. But it was troubled from the start.

"We were part of a working dispatch group at OUC and we voiced our concerns then that this was a recipe for disaster," said Ed Smith, president of the D.C. Firefighters Union.

At a recent city council hearing, the head of the union representing dispatchers said technology issues have been overwhelming at times.

Jacqueline White said since the implementation of the new system, there have been a large number of glitches to the computer dispatch system, which has increased the number of performance errors.

"To add insult to injury, several employees have been disciplined for the glitches in the system," she said.

"There are a number of issues there," said D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. "We have heard concerns raised by a number of people in the community as well as other professionals who focus on emergency response. We've got to do better at the Office of Unified Communications. We've got to make sure that the dispatch response times meet those internal standards."

Just a few weeks ago, the 911 center came under scrutiny again when a toddler choking on grapes waited as long as 12 minutes before help arrived. The toddler later died.

The mayor says there is a small community of experts in management of 911 centers and she will consult with her staff on the direction to go. But for right now, she wants an expert in the technology that runs these centers.

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