DC 911 head talks about challenges after more than a year as interim director

Still no word from Mayor Bowser's administration about naming a permanent leader for troubled agency

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It has been more than a year and DC 911 still has no permanent director. Now into her thirteenth month as interim director, Cleo Subido has — for the most part — been quietly remaking the troubled agency. When asked directly by STATter911 on Tuesday about her future as the head of the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) Subido would only say, “I let those things get handled somewhere else.”:

A recent question from STATter911 about the status of nominating an OUC director has, so far, gone unanswered from the office of Deputy Mayor Chris Geldart. As we’ve reported previously, Subido has strong support from two of OUC’s key clients and public safety partners, the DC Fire & EMS Department and the Metropolitan Police Department. Top officials at both agencies see Subido as working to solve long-standing fire, EMS and police call handling and dispatching problems.

Despite that, Mayor Muriel Bowser has declined opportunities over the last year to provide public support for Subido’s reform efforts. That’s in stark contrast to Bowser’s obvious support for OUC’s previous director, Karima Holmes. Bowser made it clear to reporters on multiple occasions that, despite many dispatching errors and other OUC problems making news, DC was lucky to have a leader like Holmes.

Holmes departed in January 2021 after five years running OUC. Her resignation came about a month after a recording from a particularly troubling 911 call became public and as the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor announced its plans to review DC 911 operations. Holmes left for a job outside the 911 field.

Over the last year, Subido has reassigned or shown the door to many OUC managers and supervisors who worked for Holmes. Subido admits those moves have received mixed reviews from agency workers:

In July, Subido sent a scathing letter to OUC employees outlining serious staffing issues compounded by people not showing for work or failing to follow some basic job requirements. Subido tells STATter911 that since then staffing issues are improving:

Despite a significant dispatching error last week during a deadly shooting, there seems to be an overall trend of improvement at DC 911. For example, beginning in February of 2020, STATter911 reported on 17 different incidents where fire and EMS dispatchers abandoned emergency radio channels for many minutes at a time. We’ve learned of none since last July. While her predecessor refused to publicly acknowledge the unanswered radio channels, Subido dealt with it head-on. Shortly after becoming interim director, Subido outlined the problems at a DC Council hearing. She called these mistakes by dispatchers “a deal breaker” and outlined progressive discipline for repeat offenders. Subido attributes any improvements at the agency on instituting clear accountability:

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