Dispatcher resigns, denies allegations involving alcohol, sleeping on duty
June 08, 2011 - An Oxford Village Police dispatcher resigned Monday during a disciplinary hearing convened because she reported for work June 3 allegedly smelling of alcohol.
"It's an unfortunate incident, but we made the proper corrections," said Police Chief Mike Neymanowski.
Bridget Burke, a full-time dispatcher and 11-year veteran of the department, resigned at the "beginning of the hearing," according to the chief.
Neymanowski said Burke quit because it was in the "best interests of herself, the department . . . (and) the community."
"I think that's fair to say on her behalf," he said. The chief also noted, "The drinking (accusation) wasn't substantiated."
Burke denied she drank any alcohol on June 3. "The last time I drank was last Tuesday (May 31) when I played golf and I had a drink at lunch," she said.
Burke also denied her resignation had anything to do with the accusation against her. "I have resigned due to health problems," she said. "My blood sugar level was probably outrageous Friday night because after 12 hours of fasting, at 6:30 in the morning (on Saturday), it was still 208."
Burke was assigned to the midnight shift, which runs from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
According to Neymanowski, shortly after she began her shift Friday night, a dispatcher from the previous shift noticed Burke's breath smelled of alcohol and brought it to the supervisor's attention.
Burke was asked to take a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) using a breathalyzer.
"She was offered that, but refused it," Neymanowski said.
Burke stated she was ill and voluntarily went home, instead of working her shift.
Had she not left of her own accord, Neymanowski indicated the supervisor "would have probably relieved her from duty anyway" due to the alleged alcohol smell and refusal to take a PBT.
"I think that substantiates enough to relieve an officer of their duty," he said.
Burke contends the smell was probably due to her health issues.
"I might have smelled because my blood sugar was probably outrageously high because I screwed up and obviously, didn't test properly and didn't take my meds properly," she said. This would have resulted in her breath having an odor of "sweetness," as Burke described it.
As for why she went home, Burke said, "I was not drinking. I came in, my head was ready to pop off the top of my body like a pimple. I didn't feel good. And they pissed me off and I went home."
Burke noted she went to the POH clinic between 6-6:30 a.m. Saturday and her blood pressure was very high.
"My blood pressure was 194-over-113, the first time," she said. "After having relaxed for 20 minutes like I was advised to, and they took it a second time, it was still high. It was like 193-over-112."
Neymanowski said had Burke not resigned, "she would have been terminated" as a result of this incident and a previous incident last month, both of which he labeled as "unacceptable."
"We had some prior issue with her sleeping on duty," the chief said.
Burke was on an 18-month probationary period because on May 5, a police officer found her sleeping in the dispatch center, according to the chief.
"He was doing a building check and she missed his call coming into dispatch," Neymanowski said. "When an officer (is) doing his building checks – pulling on doors in the downtown area – they're required to call dispatch."
When the officer returned to the station to check on things, he found her sleeping, the chief said.
Neymanowski noted that Burke had difficulties working the overnight shift. "Basically, she had a hard time with midnights – (she) just couldn't adjust to that," he said.
As a result of the alleged sleeping incident, Burke was suspended without pay for five days last month.
"Sleeping on duty is certainly a concern for the safety of my officers," Neymanowski said. "I went with suspension at that time because she has been (in the) past a reliable dispatcher, but again, I think sleeping on duty is a very serious concern."
Burke denied the incident.
"I'd like to go on record as saying, I haven't slept on duty," she said.
Burke claimed that she's the victim of a smear campaign and department politics.
"There was a couple people up there looking for jobs and there's some head-hunting going on," she said. "This is going to ruin my chance of ever getting employment, ever, ever – whether it's pumping gas or working at another police department. This is going to ruin me, period. This is a bunch of crap (that's) going on. I'm sick and tired of this. That's one of the reasons why I quit. It's juvenile."
Burke was the second member of the village police to resign within the last month or so. In early May, police officer Mark Lampkowski chose resignation over termination after he accidentally Tasered a dispatcher on Easter Sunday while testing his electroshock weapon.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.