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A word to the wise: Recorders pick up everything at 9-1-1 dispatch centers, not just the actual calls.

Forsyth county emergency dispatcher John Ruckh – who has been with the county for 24 years – has been suspended with pay over comments he made in the background about Oprah Winfrey while another dispatcher handled a call from Dr. Maya Angelou’s caretaker.

“These comments are unacceptable and we have opened an internal investigation to look into the circumstances surrounding this event,” says Forsyth County EMS Director Dan Ozimek in a statement.

During the recording, Ruckh is heard discussing a controversial interview Oprah did last fall with BBC where she said the generations of older people who were born, bred, and marinated in prejudice and racism just have to die.

Ruckh’s garbled conversation appears to be saying that “Oprah has fallen out of grace,” and that she is upset because people are not supportive of President Obama.

“In Emergency Services, we deal with a lot of pain and suffering and we make decisions in split seconds to know how to do, what to do and who to send, says Ruckh, who describes Angelou as a ‘wonderful human being’ for whom he had the ‘utmost respect.’ “… However, sometimes we become calloused and insensitive. I really hate that this happened at the time that it did, because this is taking away from Maya Angelou’s passing.”

“This is in no way a racial slur, slander, associated conversation,” Ruckh also says.

“It is our hope that these comments will not overshadow the celebration of Maya Angelou’s positive impact that she has had to this community and around the world,” says Ozimek. “We offer our deepest sympathy to Maya Angelou’s family and friends.”


Read more here.

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  • Ask_Me

    SMH…it’s frightening that folks like this are working the calls at 911.

  • Mary Burrell

    It’s always some jackhole being disrespectful.

  • Justmythoughts

    This is a story?! People can have their opinions, it’s what makes us an individual. Besides Oprah ain’t Jesus she’s just a human like me and you. Child please.

    • vintage3000

      Sure we all have opinions, however you are not supposed to be pontificating about them during a life and death event.
      If that was your mother who needed emergency assistance, would you want folks in the background waxing poetic about their opinions about Oprah, or anyone else? Or maybe that would not bother you, people are crazy nowadays.

    • Justmythoughts

      Unless the person was directly talking to the person handling the emergency call what would be the grounds to suspend. I work in an office where people are talking while I’m conducting a business call. What’s the difference? 24 years of service all down the drain now this person has to wonder how to pay his/her rent for June!

    • vintage3000

      A 911 dispatch office is not the same as a regular business office. Management has to decide if a person does not have the judgement to keep inflammatory comments to themselves, they probably don’t have the sense to properly handle a 911 call themselves. And the guy made this comment on the attached link: “Unfortunately, I work in a high-profile job and everything’s recorded,” Ruckh said.
      The irony is I have heard so many white people get angry when Black people talk about racism, then when THEY are called out on their comments while on their jobs many of them start crying about freedom of speech. I guess Oprah didn’t have freedom of speech to voice her opinions about racism, which has made her “fall out of grace” according to Ruckh.

  • genii love

    wait… he said Oprah has fallen out of grace…and that is a crime!? im confused. he was having conversation at work with what sounds like a colleague probably inthe background…and it was overheard…and now he is suspended. We ALL say things that if they came to light others wouldnt be pleased..but that still doesnt mean we dont have the right to say them.

    He is completely entitled to his opinion. I don’t see what the big deal is. Fact of the matter is..people do in fact have the RIGHT to say whatever they want as long as they arent stating its fact when it isnt. ppl may not like it…but hey thats life.

    • copelli21

      Completely agree.

      What a slippery slope it is that suddenly people are not entitled to voice their opinions, popular or otherwise.

      And as usual the response to such situations is overreaction.

    • Jacqueline

      You do know that if your employer overheard a conversation while you were at work they would be well within their right to decide as to whether it was appropriate for work or not? You have a right to say what you want but they have a right to deem it appropriate for work.

      There is no slippery slope, this has always been the case. The man should have taken his comments outside of the work place. He essentially was talking about a loved one of the person who was the focus of the 911 call. 911 dispatchers have been fired for having conversations about the people on the other end that did not fall into the category of professional. This is not new and this is not a freedom of speech issue.

      I worked at a high end hotel in LA in events, you cannot talk about peoples business. Each person is due their privacy. Celebrity or not.

    • Jacqueline

      The man is not being punished for speaking his opinion. He is being punished for not being professional. He was essentially talking about the loved one of the person who was the focus of a 911 call.

      He knows he should have kept his mouth shut and that is why he took his punishment with grace. This is not about Oprah. This is the respect due to ALL people who call a 911 dispatcher for help. Be a professional and you will not get in trouble. It has always been that way.