Precious Stephens, a New Orleans 911 operator, is wanted for hanging up on 911 calls during her shift. Police have a warrant out for her arrest, though the 25-year-old woman was still on the run as of Friday morning.
According to authorities, the woman hung up on several 911 calls while on duty at a call operation center. Precious Stephens now faces charges of malfeasance and interfering with emergency communications. She is accused of disconnecting the emergency calls and neglecting to relay any emergency messages to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
The New Orleans Police Department wrote in a news release Friday that “Third District detectives have obtained an arrest warrant for Precious Stephens on charges of malfeasance in office and interfering with an emergency communication.” If convicted of both charges, Stephens faces up to five and a half years in prison.
The department explained that she was “working as a 911 operator with the Orleans Parish Communications District at the time,” and that “she is wanted for allegedly disconnecting 911 calls deliberately without obtaining necessary emergency information or relaying such emergencies to the other dispatchers for aid. The report was taken on August 23, 2021.”
As of Friday morning, there was no motive identified. It’s unclear why Stephens disconnected the calls, whether for a dangerous prank or because she was overwhelmed by the position. The NOPD asked anyone with information on Precious Stephens’ whereabouts to “call 504-658-6030 or Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans at 504-822-1111.”
The Orleans Parish Communications District originally reported Stephens’ dangerous actions on Aug. 23. The district was randomly investigating the call center and Stephens happened to be on her shift.
The investigation revealed that from Aug. 20 to Aug. 21, Precious Stephens deliberately hung up on 911 calls without obtaining the pertinent information. The district told NOLA that it “has and will continue to cooperate with the … investigation into this matter and dedicated to providing any and all assistance to aid in (the) efforts.”
Below the New Orleans Police Department’s news release, people took different stances on the issue. One commenter defended Precious Stephens, explaining that “she was probably angry at the attitude of the caller who was impatient with her for asking questions when the caller was panicking due to the emergency she was experiencing! [Not] everyone is cut out for this kind of job. Nor do they qualify in the first place!”
Another person said that Stephens should be held accountable. “Overwhelmed or not, it was her job to take the calls she received serious,” the commenter wrote. “Hanging up on people or disregarding their calls is in fact a crime. Asking for help or a supervisor would have been appropriate. But I can also under the levels of stress she was probably under!”
Precious Stephens has since been fired from her job as a 911 operator. Louisiana law defines malfeasance as a public service provider fails to fulfill the duties legally required of them. The offense holds a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Emergency dispatchers don’t have strict requirements in the state of Louisiana. They are not licensed by the state but still need to meet the minimum requirements set by state and local government agencies. They can either work out of a sheriff’s or fire department or be hired directly by a communications district. According to Louisiana law, “there is no universal set of procedures – and no universal training standard” for 911 operators and dispatchers.