Police call handler sacked for laughing with caller

Sue Heeney said she tried to put the caller at ease

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The Independent Online

A 999 call handler has appealed against her dismissal for "laughing unprofessionally" with a caller.

Sue Heeney, 38, was sacked by Essex Police for the laughter and - the force said - grading the incident wrongly.

The call, on 9 November, was from a man reporting a relative who he thought may have been in a crash whilst drink driving. Ms Heeney said he was nervous, because of the negative repercussions for the relative.

She said she tried to put the caller at ease. According to the BBC, the man struggled to remember the phonetic alphabet for the letter "E" while telling Ms Heeney the car registration number.

When Ms Heeney, of Marks Tey, near Colchester, told him it was "echo", he laughed and she did too.

But Essex Police said her manner was negligent and unprofessional - an allegation Ms Heeney she strongly disputes. She was suspended in December and sacked in July.

The force also said she should have graded the call as a "road traffic accident - fail to stop", not "suspicious circumstances," and cited the fact that the driver later went to prison was evidence of the incident's seriousness.

But Ms Heeney said when the man called he only said there "might" have been an accident, and that he just knew the car was damaged.

She said he grading was correct, because she never knew there had been two collisions while the reported driver was behind the wheel.

Since she lost her job, she and her partner have put their home up for sale to make ends meet.

She said: "I only acted on the information he had, which was minimal.

"I'm devastated by this."

A spokeswoman for the police force said: "The failure to properly assess the gravity of this incident led to her being investigated by the force's professional standards department.

"An appeal against the dismissal has been made and it would be inappropriate to comment in detail at this time."