Thursday, March 26, 2009

Today's Top Story in the Sun

Published on: Thursday, March 26, 2009

Area legislators sponsor 911 training bill

Kreegel, Roberson have authored a bill requiring certification of dispatchers.

House 0769: Relating to 911 Emergency Dispatcher Certification
Senate 2040: Relating to 911 Emergency Dispatcher Certification
Florida House of Representatives
Florida Senate

With the help of all five North Port city commissioners, state representatives Ken Roberson and Paige Kreegel pushed a bill through committee Wednesday that would require certification standards for 911 operators in Florida.

House Bill 769, titled "911 Emergency Dispatcher Certification," is a measure pushed by the Charlotte County Republicans in reaction to the murder of 21-year-old Denise Amber Lee, who was kidnapped from her North Port home last year. The Lee family believes the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office botched a 911 call to dispatch units to the intersection where Denise was last seen by a motorist.

"I think it's going to go a long way to improve the public's confidence in the 911 system and hopefully save lives here in Florida," Roberson, of Port Charlotte, said from Tallahassee Wednesday. It was one of three bills he had which successfully passed through committee.

If it completes the committee process and becomes law through the Legislature, the bill would require any person serving as a 911 emergency dispatcher to be certified by the Florida Department of Health by Oct. 1, 2012, through a set of statewide standards. Currently, each emergency dispatch call center mandates its own criteria.

A similar bill also is being pushed by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Sarasota.

The bill was given unanimous approval by the Health Care Regulation Committee after an impassioned speech by North Port City Commissioner David Garofalo, who also is on the board of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation. Roberson said Garofalo told the harrowing tale of Lee's demise to a captivated audience of around 200.

"You could hear a pin drop when he was telling the story," Roberson said.

No one was more surprised than Garofalo by his speech -- the commissioner did not expect to address the committee in his visit Wednesday. But seeing the bill face opposition from Tallahassee lobbyists, Garofalo said he felt compelled to give his all for Denise.

"I'm not going to have her name die in this committee right here," the commissioner, still fired up from the meeting, recalled himself thinking Wednesday.

Garofalo said he had tears welling up in his eyes as he spoke, earning the 5-0 vote. Given that, he thinks he got through to the members of the House that this bill is about more than the Lee family's tragedy.

"It's not just a grieving family," Garofalo said. "This is what needs to happen."

See this story at to read both the House and Senate bills.



Staff Writer