FALL RIVER — A public safety dispatcher was disciplined in January for drinking a nip of alcohol while working a shift last fall, according to the chief of police.
Several sources identified that dispatcher as Hayleigh Dootson. Police Chief Albert Dupere said Friday she has been employed as a public safety dispatcher based in the Fall River Police Department for about three years.
A video that showed a dispatcher drinking what appeared to be a nip while at her post in the dispatch bay surfaced internally in January, according to Dupere. He said the video was found during an internal investigation into a separate matter, a matter that Dupere declined to discuss.
“We investigated and disciplinary action was taken,” said Dupere. He also declined to say what disciplinary action was taken, citing personnel policy.
Dupere said Dootson admitted to drinking one nip when asked about the events depicted in the video. After reviewing all calls Dootson took during the October shift in question, officials concluded Dootson had not mishandled any, according to Dupere.
According to Dupere, the department’s investigation found “no evidence that she was intoxicated or affected in any way by the amount that she drank.” He said Dootson has a “very good record” otherwise.
The department’s 35 emergency services dispatchers are trained to collect information from callers requesting police, fire and emergency medical services, prioritize emergencies and coordinate the response from first responders, said Deputy Police Chief of Administration Charles Cullen.
Cullen declined to discuss the specifics of the events that led to Dootson being disciplined, citing the personnel policy. For the same reason, he declined to say what specific disciplinary action was taken, saying only, “it wasn’t overlooked — and it wasn’t a slap on the hand either.”
Members of the public, as well as first responders, depend on dispatchers to perform a difficult job under unpredictable circumstances, said Cullen.
“It’s a challenging job, you have to be communicating and be alert every day you’re coming in, because people outside depend on my people to get the help that they need,” he said.
Cullen, a Fall River resident, said he understands concerns among community members who viewed the video. He said drinking while at work is prohibited for all employees including officers, volunteer officers and dispatchers.
“That’s very clear in the police department regulations book,” he said, adding that such behavior is not common within the department.
Dootson declined comment when reached by phone on Friday. Rui Santos, president of the union that covers dispatchers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment left with the administrative office.
Cullen echoed Chief Dupere and said Dootson did not consume enough to become intoxicated or affect her performance in the dispatch bay.
Cullen said of the episode “it was mostly as a joke, and when you’re dealing with younger people they don’t understand that jokes can become ramifications early on,” adding that “she feels like she let everybody down.”