Former Baltimore County 9-1-1 dispatcher Kelli Murray. Murray resigned from her job on Jan. 6 after a Facebook post led to harassment and a call for her ouster by the local police union. (Courtesy Photo)
Kelli Murray, the Baltimore County dispatcher whose Facebook post on the death of Michael Brown led to online harassment and the local police union calling for her ouster, is pondering whether to resign from her job as her first day expected back to work approaches.
Around early December, Murray had responded to a Facebook post by a fellow dispatcher in which the dispatcher said she was confused as to why people were rallying over Brown when police die in the line of duty on a regular basis. That post also referred to Brown as a ‘thug,’ according to Murray, and included phrases such as ‘who cares that he died’ and ‘let him bleed out.’
“That hurt my feelings,” Murray told the AFRO during a phone interview on Dec. 30. “I can only imagine how Mike Brown’s mother felt. It took me some time and then after a while I responded to it on my own personal page.”
Murray’s response read, in part, “So, it’s okay to KILL black children and their lives do not matter because they may or may NOT have made a bad decision? And Police officers should be able to kill them and get away with it because they CHOSE to accept a position that PAYS them -to puts [sic] their lives in danger. . . . I would rather MY son be approached by so called THUGS, then for him to encounter any policeman. MY SON IS BLACK!!! & He is intelligent, he is well mannered, he cares about people, he does not carry weapons!!!!! Please don’t kill my son!”
On Dec. 20, weeks after her original post, Murray heard that her response had been circulating online. Murray says that she called out sick on Dec. 21 after hearing about the attention the post was receiving, but attempted to return to work on Dec. 22.
“That was my last day of work because as I was working, I received two calls from people from different states asking for me, and asking if I worked there, and wanting to speak with a supervisor,” said Murray. “At that point I was extremely emotional, I was afraid for my safety and I left. I left work and I haven’t been back.”
Murray says that before leaving she met with her immediate supervisor as well as chief of Baltimore County’s 9-1-1 center Marie Whisonant and Assistant Chief Jason Bivens, who expressed that she would not be disciplined in any way and that they were prepared to release a statement on her behalf.
“I have not seen how that has come to fruition at all,” said Murray, who also asked during this meeting that an internal investigation be conducted into who was releasing information about her anonymously.
FOP Lodge 4, which represents Baltimore County police officers, released a statement on Dec. 22 saying that while they acknowledge Murray’s first amendment rights, they did not feel someone with her views should be working in a position where she could impact officer safety.
“In the law enforcement community, dispatchers serve as a lifeline to get us accurate information and backup when we call for them. We rely on this hoping they act promptly and without prejudices that will put our lives in jeopardy,” read part of the FOP’s statement.
A Facebook page titled ‘Fire Kelli Murray Now’ also sprung up, with many commentors making disparaging remarks about Murray.
According to Don Mohler, chief of staff to Baltimore County executive Kevin Kamenetz, Murray “has not been suspended, and she has not been asked to not return. She can return at any time.”
Murray told the AFRO that she had asked for resources from her superiors, including access to a union representative, but that she had received no response. Mohler said it was his understanding that in such circumstances, employees normally contact their union representatives directly. Mohler emphasized, however, that in this situation the county has taken no disciplinary action.
As to whether any internal investigation was being conducted to determine who had been releasing information about Murray’s shifts and identity, Mohler said he was barred from commenting on what would be an internal personnel matter.
Murray, who has worked as a dispatcher for eight years, and received the Telecommunicator of the Year Award in 2013, called her employer for the contact number of her employee union, the Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees on Jan. 6, according to Dayvon Love, director of research and public policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a youth-led Baltimore policy think tank that has been representing Murray publicly since the controversy broke loose. During that phone call, Murray was informed by Whisonant that she had been placed on unpaid leave through Jan. 9, and that they call center was expecting her return to work on Jan. 10, says Love.
Murray was also informed during that call that an internal investigation had indeed turned up a county employee at another agency who had looked up Murray’s information, but Whisonant said she could not divulge who that person was, says Love.
When she spoke to the AFRO last week, Murray indicated that she felt whoever had released information about when she was on duty had done so with the intention of having her bullied and harassed.
“If this person that intentionally did this to me is still employed with Baltimore County, and I don’t even really know who this person is . . . I don’t feel safe returning,” said Murray, who is still weighing whether to resign from the job she has performed without incident for eight years.