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Officers, operator involved in Plush calls for help had received praise, professional commendations

Posted at 12:52 AM, Apr 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-25 06:31:53-04

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati law enforcement personnel involved in the death of 16-year-old Kyle Plush -- from the 911 operator who didn't respond to Plush's cries for help to the two officers who never exited their car when searching for him -- had been recently assessed as meeting or exceeding expectations in their work, according to personnel files released Tuesday by the Cincinnati Police Department.

Plush, a Seven Hills High School sophomore, was retrieving tennis equipment from his Honda Odyssey on April 10 when he became trapped inside, causing him to slowly asphyxiate while he ordered Siri to make two frantic calls to 911.

"This is not a joke," he said in the second call. "I am trapped inside a gold Honda Odyssey van in the parking lot of Seven Hills. ... Send officers immediately. I'm almost dead."

Operator Amber Smith took that call; throughout its entire duration, she never responded to him. Smith later said she experienced a system malfunction that cut off her audio and froze her computer screen. 

RELATED: Tech errors 'not uncommon' in 911 call centers

Jennifer King, a 911 computer system analyst, vouched for her in a meeting before city council members by saying the system had experienced problems that day. King added the 911 call center had experienced persistent problems with call quality and understaffing for two years.

Smith's January 2018 performance review asserted that she handled more than 20,000 calls in 2017 and worked diligently to collect and verify information from callers.

She was placed on administrative leave in the week after Plush's death and scolded for not passing along the make and model of Plush's car but returned to work April 18. 

Officers Brian Brazile and Edsel Osborn, whose body camera recordings showed they remained in their car while they searched for -- and failed to find -- Plush, were both the recipients of multiple commendations over the course of their multi-decade careers with the Cincinnati Police Department.

RELATED: Many questions remain as Kyle Plush laid to rest

Both had worked in District Two, where Plush died, for 10 years; when they responded to his call for help, neither appeared to believe it had been made sincerely.

"I don't see nobody, which I didn't imagine I would," one officer says in the body camera recording of their search.

The investigation into the exact circumstances behind Plush's death was ongoing as of Tuesday night. In the meantime, City Council voted to pour $1.4 million more into adding new staff and technology to the city's 911 center.