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Former Madison police dispatcher William Coady is caught on camera leaving the break room with a pillow during his overnight shift at the dispatch center. Photo courtesy of the Madison Police Department

Former Madison police dispatcher William Coady is caught on camera leaving the break room with a pillow during his overnight shift at the dispatch center. (Photo courtesy of the Madison Police Department )

Asleep at the Switch: Madison Police Remove Three Dispatchers for Sleeping on the Job

Published June 12, 2018

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On May 16, representatives of the Madison Police Department came before the Board of Finance asking for a special appropriation in the amount of roughly $45,000 to backfill some overtime in the Madison Emergency Communications dispatch center. Why? The department had suddenly found itself short three civilian dispatchers. At that point, the three had either resigned or were currently on suspension pending the completion of internal investigations, investigations that ultimately proved all three dispatchers had been sleeping on the job.

In late January, Madison Police Captain Joseph Race began an investigation into Dispatcher William Coady. Coady, who had been hired in 2006, stood accused of sleeping during his midnight shift at the dispatch center. The investigation found Coady had been sleeping on his shift, sometimes for hours at a time, and it certainly wasn’t a one-time occurrence.

According to an internal affairs investigation report, over a period of 30 days Coady was captured on the building security camera video system stepping away from his desk, entering the break room with a pillow and/or blanket, and then shutting the door in excess of 30 minutes—the dispatchers’ allotted break time, although not for sleep—on a total of seven occasions.

The report lists each incident, date, and time, and also highlights how Coady seemed to have a mastered system for grabbing some shuteye on his shift.

“It is important to note that upon watching the videos in their entirety, Coady ensures that the supervisor and all other officers are out of the building before he gathers his pillow/blankets and proceeds to the break room,” the report reads. “On nights/mornings where there are officers in the buildings, Coady does not engage in this behavior…Coady’s pillow is kept upstairs. Coady walks around checking for officers, goes upstairs and retrieves his pillow/blankets, and stores them near the stairwell. After he ensures that the building is clear (usually by using the restroom) as he comes back towards the break room, he quickly picks up his pillow and proceeds to the break room.”

Coady, while a civilian dispatcher and not a sworn officer, violated multiple sections of the standards of conduct including sleeping, neglect of duty, falsifying records, and conduct unbecoming among others. The report also notes that Coady was one of the most outspoken dispatchers when the department pushed to have two dispatchers work the overnight shift as a safety precaution but, “despite his expressed safety concerns, Coady chose to knowingly and repeatedly sleep while on duty.”

Coady did not respond to a call for comment.

Coady had an extensive disciplinary history coupled with his more recent offenses and so the department moved to terminate his employment. Coady ultimately resigned on Feb. 5, but his resignation wasn’t the end of the issue. The investigation into Coady revealed he wasn’t the only dispatcher sleeping on the job.

Smith and Kolasinski Make Three

Subsequent investigations conducted by Race showed Dispatcher Carl Smith and Dispatcher Marcie Kolasinski had both been caught on tape engaging in the same behavior as Coady during the overnight shift, repeatedly heading to sleep in the break room while on duty.

Multiple dispatchers confirmed that Smith would fall asleep in his chair in the dispatch center and would go “down the hall” to the break room to sleep as well. On the video surveillance tapes, Smith and Coady are seen taking turns going to the break room to sleep and Smith is seen turning down the overhead speaker when he goes into the room.

According to the report, Smith admitted to sleeping on duty anywhere from 30 to 40 or more times since May 2017. The department moved to terminate Smith’s employment and Smith ultimately resigned.

Kolasinski was videotaped heading to the break room twice to sleep during the investigation period. While her offenses mirrored those of Coady and Smith, her case was more complicated. Kolasinski claimed that the 30-minute break and additional two, 10-minute breaks (which she stated were 15–minute breaks) given to dispatchers could be taken all together and that she had never been told otherwise. According to the report, Kolasinski did not admit to sleeping during her break; security footage showed otherwise.

Considering that Kolasinski had previously been suspended without pay for neglect of duty during her employment, the department moved to terminate her employment. Entitled to due process, the issue was brought before the Board of Selectmen (BOS) over two executive session meetings in late May.

On May 31, the BOS moved to accept the police chief’s recommendation of termination, citing multiple violations of the Madison Police Department’s Standard Operating Procedure Manual, Standards of Conduct, Code of Ethics, and Telecommunicator’s Code of Ethics.

Kolasinski is still in the timeframe within which she can appeal to step three of the collective bargaining agreement for arbitration with the labor board.

Smith and Kolasinksi did not respond to calls for comment; Kolasinki’s union representative Dan Bonfiglio also did not respond to a call for comment.

The Fallout and the Future

The dispatch center, which fell under Madison Police Department management in 2015, has to be staffed 24 hours a day, so taking three dispatchers out of the mix at once was a challenge, according to Race. One dispatcher has since been replaced and the center is now up to a staff of six.

“They believe with the six of them they can cover the shift,” he said. “With the six of them and then using a police officer as a desk officer on the overnights, we can cover the shifts right now and as of right now, it is working and its not overtaxing them.”

Race said he can’t say enough good things about the dispatchers currently working in the center who stepped up to cover shifts and keep everything going when Kolasinski, Coady, and Smith were pulled. Additionally, Race said despite the offenses of the three dispatchers, the public was not at risk because of their actions.

“No calls in this time period or before this were missed,” he said. “There was never a time when the dispatch center was unmanned. What we found through this behavior is that someone was in there and the other dispatcher engaged in the behavior, but at no time were we unmanned.”

Race said he had 60 days to complete the investigation and moved as quickly as he could, considering there were three investigations to conduct and jobs were on the line.

“We are adhering to the highest standards in law enforcement and public safety communication through our dual accreditation and—not that this would be tolerable in any organization—we have standards in place and procedures in place where when we uncover these things we are going to take action,” he said. “We moved as quickly as we could, but as prudently as we could through the investigation.”

The department is looking at ways to ensure this behavior never happens again. Race said he won’t see the department go back to what it was when plagued by a series of scandals in the mid-2000s, when everything from prostitution to fraud brought the department’s image to an all-time low.

“We didn’t take it lightly from the get-go and it wasn’t that we were doing it to send a message, it’s just conduct that we are not going to tolerate, especially coming from where this department came from,” he said. “We are not going to tolerate this behavior whether it’s a dispatcher, an officer, the chief, or myself.”

While these incidents will certainly stir up memories for residents who remember the issues that rocked the department nearly a decade ago, in this case Race said the department was able to investigate its own and be as transparent as possible with the public.

“We are not going to compromise the trust or safety of this community,” he said.

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