April 20th, 2020 – 4:15 PM
WBHF Radio and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation –
(According to WBHF Radio) The 911 supervisor that failed to activate the outdoor warning sirens during a tornado warning on Monday, April 13th shortly after 1:00 has been terminated from her position. 52-year-old Lieutenant Stormie Watkins received an official termination letter from The Bartow County Sheriff’s Office on Monday morning. The letter reads:
“Between Sunday, April 12 and Monday, April 13, you failed to follow the policy of The Bartow County Sheriff’s Office and 911 Operations Center and activate the severe weather sirens during a tornado warning. In addition, you failed to follow the agency’s policy to supervise.”
34-year-old William McConnell was killed when a tree fell on his house during the severe weather event and some wonder if a siren would have saved his life.
Further, Watkins was arrested on Monday morning and charged with three counts of computer invasion of privacy from incidents that occurred on April 3rd and 4th of this year, in which Watkins accessed and disseminated Criminal Justice Information, which is governed by state and federal laws, rules of the G.C.I.C. council, and the policy of The Bartow County Sheriff’s Office, without authority. The letter reads:
“These acts and failure to act could be construed as a violation of the law, insubordinate, and inappropriate. The alleged conduct without question impaired the operation of the department and reduced the organizational efficiency. Your actions, as a whole, reflect negatively on the department and violated the public trust.”
The Bartow County Sheriff’s Office became aware of the unauthorized access to GCIC files and immediately contacted the GBI on April 13, 2020 to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations. As a 911 dispatcher, Watkins had authority to access certain GCIC files for official, legal, and legitimate purposes. The investigation revealed that Watkins abused this authority by accessing the files for personal reasons, a violation of Georgia law.
After not activating the sirens, Watkins was active on a Facebook post explaining why the sirens were not activated. She writes that they were busy responding to other emergencies and phone calls and that they never had confirmation of a tornado touchdown. She writes:
“Passing over and not a confirmed sighting of rotation we do not set them (outdoor warning sirens) off.”
According to documentation dated March of last year, the outdoor warning sirens should be activated if the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning, whether there is a confirmed tornado on the ground or not. In the same post, Watkins urges the public to take responsibility and not depend on just one device.
Wakins was booked into the Bartow County Jail at 10:30 Monday morning and released at 3:13 PM on a $7,500 property bond. A person charged with computer Invasion of privacy can face up to 15 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
According to a statement from The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI):
“Region 1 Office arrested Stormie Watkins, 52, of Cartersville, for three counts of Computer Invasion of Privacy.
Watkins was a supervisor at the Bartow County E-911 Center. While employed in that capacity, Watkins accessed computer files from the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) without authorization and for her personal use.
The Bartow County Sheriff’s Office became aware of the unauthorized access to GCIC files and immediately contacted the GBI on April 13, 2020 to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations. As a 911 dispatcher, Watkins had authority to access certain GCIC files for official, legal, and legitimate purposes.
The investigation revealed that Watkins abused this authority by accessing the files for personal reasons, a violation of Georgia law.
Watkins was arrested without incident and is being held at the Bartow County Jail.”