Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Todays Bradenton Herald

My opinion with article to follow.

As David Garofalo was quoted as saying this is a great big first step. But it really is only a first step.

I believe 2012 is way too long to wait for change. It would be difficult to fully support this knowing that tragedies could be prevented if the change was brought about sooner. What are we to say to those families that may lose a loved one between now and when this is fully implemented through either a 9-1-1 mishap or by not using technology that's available now?

Also, we don't believe certain 9-1-1 centers should have an opportunity to be "grandfathered" in.

It's difficult to support anything that suggests that the 9-1-1 industry continue to watchdog itself. When tragedies occur we need outside persons investigating, in my opinion. That's part of my frustration with Governor Charlie Crist. He's apparently the only person that can demand an external investigation into Denise's 9-1-1 debacle that occured in the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff's office still insists they have no problems in their 9-1-1 center and that the problems they had have been addressed. How do we know this? We don't. We have to take them at their word. Gee. We took them at their word and found their word didn't mean much.

So, we still have a ways to go.

But, this is a positive first step! It shows that people truly do care and want to make a difference. That, and I don't want to seem ungrateful for all the work that everyone has been doing because truly it means so much to us.

No, they can't save Denise and they can't bring her back. But! They can help prevent further tragedies!!!! It's awesome that people who may have been asleep on this issue are waking up and that others who have been diligently working on this for years are seeing some results.

It's a start anyways. Just my opinion.

911 training bills moving forward


MANATEE — Legislation requiring statewide training and certification for 911 dispatchers has won the backing of the Florida Police Chiefs Association and the Florida Sheriffs Association and is given a good chance of passage this year, officials said.

“My understanding is it has strong support in both House and Senate,” said Longboat Key Police Chief Albert Hogle, who also serves on the legislative committee for the Florida Police Chiefs Association.

“It’s going very, very well,” noted Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Sarasota, a sponsor of the bill attempting to remedy Florida’s patchwork system of voluntary training by instituting mandatory instruction and certification.

Last week, a companion bill, House Bill 769, won approval from one House of Representatives committee, and an amended version of Detert’s original bill, Senate Bill 2040, is slated for review before a Senate committee today, said Rep. Kenneth Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, a co-sponsor of the House bill with Rep. Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda.

“It will improve the public’s confidence in the 911 system in Florida,” Roberson said Tuesday.

The 911 system came under scrutiny last year after the family of an abducted North Port woman complained that confusion at a Charlotte County 911 call center deprived law enforcement officers of a chance to save her life. The family of murdered Denise Amber Lee set up a foundation in her memory to urge reforms.

The police chiefs’ doubts about how the plan might work and which agency would oversee training and certification have been resolved, Hogle said.

He added that the sheriff’s association, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and a national organization of dispatchers are working together to formalize standards. They also are discussing a reasonable deadline for when 911 operators must have completed formal training and certification, he said.

“It appears the Senate and the House will help make this happen in a fashion that will work for the benefit of all concerned parties,” said Hogle. “Everybody recognizes there’s been opportunities to do a better job and everybody wants to do a better job.”

Gerald Monahan, president of the chiefs’ association, said amendments to the House version helped bolster support for it because it clarified that operators could train at their own dispatch centers as long as they finished an approved curriculum and won state certification.

That’s important to local government because in order to have everybody certified by a certain date requires a vehicle to help make it happen, Monahan said.

“The Florida police chiefs certainly understand how this all came about,” he added. “Our hearts are still heavy for the (Lee) family. We want to do the right thing, We do want good training for our dispatch centers. Our mission and goals are the same as the foundation’s and the family’s.”

Dispatchers have been looking for a long time for some type of certification process, and “we finally reached a point where everybody can agree,” said Roy Hudson, director of law enforcement services for the Florida Sheriffs Association. “It adds a little more to their professionalism.”

The early version of the House bill would have required uniform training, so operators in Palm Beach and Hillsborough counties, for example, would have had to meet the same standards, said David Garofalo, North Port city commissioner and a board member of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation.

“Now, it may be minimum standards, but not really uniform standards,” he said. “We probably want to go to the next level, with uniform training, but we want the police chiefs and sheriffs on our side.

“It’s a big step,” he added.

New requirements probably would have little effect on about 30 full-time sheriff’s office 911 dispatchers, since they already take intense training, said Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube.

Still, he favors mandatory standards and certification because “it does put a template out there for the minimum of training for all dispatchers, whether it be 911 or sheriff’s office or police department dispatchers.”

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 708-7908 or at