Lawrence 911 Dispatcher Files Defamation, Invasion of Privacy Suit Against the City, Mayor and Police Chief

Lawrence Police 911 Dispatch
Lawrence Police 911 Dispatch

By: Tom Duggan – Sept 26, 2015

The viral media reports on a 911 dispatcher in Lawrence whose job was reportedly “on the line” for hanging up on “Spanish-speaking callers” has not only turned out to be false, but may cost the city millions of dollars.

Diane D’Iorio, who has been a dispatcher since 2007, filed a lawsuit on Friday, (Complaint) seeking what could be unspecified millions against the Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, Police Chief James Fitzpatrick, and the City of Lawrence. The suit asks for punitive damages for her reputation being smeared. 

The suit alleges city officials defamed her when they portrayed her as a racist in news interviews, knowing her current suspension had nothing to do with the recordings being played on TV.

“The statements made by the defendants were made not only knowingly and intentionally made, but also with actual malice against the interests of the plaintiff, as the defendants actual knew that said statements were false and/or portrayed the plaintiff in a false light.” (count one in D’Iorio v. City of Lawrence, River & Fitzpatrick)


Lawrence 911 Dispatcher Diane D'Iorio says she was smeared by bogus racism story.
Lawrence 911 Dispatcher Diane D’Iorio says she was smeared by bogus racism story by the Mayor and Police Chief.

Records show that D’Iorio was not suspended for hanging up on Spanish speaking callers, and that Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera gave a written recommendation that she be let off with a warning for mishandling the calls involving Spanish speaking callers. 

A Valley Patriot investigation also showed that the suspension D’Iorio was serving when the news reports aired (on Boston TV news), was for not dispatching a cruiser to the scene of an accident, (on July 14th) when the caller reported that nobody was hurt, and there was no damage. She was not on suspension for any other complaint.

On that day, the policy of the Lawrence Police Department said that dispatchers had discretion on sending a cruiser if there was no damage and no injuries. The next day a new order was sent down by Chief Fitzpatrick mandating that a police cruiser be dispatched to all accidents and that dispatchers no longer had discretion. 

“If these guys are busy and they are chasing gun calls or a flood of domestics do we really want to be tying them up on fender benders?” asked Ike Gabriel of the SEIU Union. Gabriel is representing D’Iorio on union violations with regard to this case.

“The dispatchers were given discretion and she used it. How it went from that incident to her personnel file being published, to snippets of unrelated phone calls being played on TV to make her look like a racist, is beyond me,” Gabriel said in an interview in August. 

Records show that D’Iorio was given a 30 day suspension for not dispatching a cruiser to an accident. She will return to work on Sunday (9-27) for the first time since the incidents occurred. Ike Gabriel said that all of the dispatchers support D’Iorio “especially the Latino dispatchers, they have stood by her since day one. They know this was all contrived.”

Lawrence Police Chief James Fitzpatrick


D’Iorio’s suit claims that confidential personnel information (from her private file at the police station) ended up being published in media reports. Back in August, Police Chief Fitzpatrick told the Valley Patriot  that he was investigating who leaked D’Iorio’s confidential, personal information and would prosecute whomever the culprit was. He said that there were “only three or four people would have access to those records and I will investigate who is responsible.”

To date The Valley Patriot has not been told of the progress on that investigation. 

Comments and leaked information in news reports which published the stories of an out of control, racist dispatcher, included the Eagle~Tribune, CBS News in Boston (“A 911 dispatcher’s job is on the line for hanging up on callers who couldn’t speak English”) and hundreds of other news outlets; including national cable news networks. All of which told the same narrative and portrayed the dispatcher as a racist who was being disciplined for discriminating against Latinos.