Pick to lead D.C.’s 911 agency pledges to fix morale, service

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Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s pick to lead the agency that handles 911 emergency calls and 311 service requests says she will improve morale “from the bottom up” and work to make sure emergency calls from Northwest do not end up at dispatch centers in Maryland.

Jennifer A.J. Greene, a former commander in the Metropolitan Police Department’s 5th District who will be paid $179,000 per year, received unqualified support from former and current colleagues at her confirmation hearing before the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary.

Chairman Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, said her employees appeared to be “more relaxed” about the agency’s condition with her at the helm, after years of shaky leadership that oversaw serious dispatch errors and a former director who was investigated for getting into an accident after taking a city car to a shopping mall.

“I come before you today giving director Jennifer Greene a chance, a chance to correct a lot of wrong,” said Sabrina Richardson, a universal call-taker at the agency. “She definitely has her work cut out for her, but with her background and knowledge, I know she can turn things around.”

Mr. Mendelson used his questioning to set benchmarks for various agency improvements proposed by Ms. Greene, who started as acting director of the agency on June 15.

Mr. Mendelson was particularly concerned about the long-standing problem of 911 calls from Northwest bouncing off cell towers in Montgomery County and landing with dispatchers in Maryland instead of the District.

“It happens on all of the borders, as a matter of fact,” Ms. Greene said, noting that she and a colleague drove around upper Northwest last week to test 911 calls. “Almost invariably, every time we got Montgomery County and then they would have to switch us back over to the District of Columbia.”

Ms. Greene said she is ready to speak with service carriers in an attempt to rectify the problem.

“I think you’re in a position to be heavy-handed here, and I think you should be with the carriers,” Mr. Mendelson said.

Ms. Greene said Next Generation 911 — a program that would allow residents to send images, video and text messages to dispatchers — has a GPS component that should circumvent the tower problem.

Former Metropolitan Police Department colleagues testified on Monday that Ms. Greene was a mentor and catalyst for the reduction of violence in Northeast during her tenure in the 5th District.

Contacts from Ward 5, including Kathy Henderson, a former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, and Thomasine Johnson, the director of public safety and emergency management at Catholic University, echoed their praise.

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