Saturday, April 18, 2009

Today's Herald-Tribune

My opinion, article to follow. Thank goodness they got the radio patching right. If you remember it took the CCSO 9-1-1 supervisor almost 2 hours to patch a radio to NPPD. And thank goodness this was a false alarm!

Report of child taking is mistake

By Kim Hackett

Published: Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 17, 2009 at 11:36 p.m.
CHARLOTTE COUNTY - In what turned out to be a false alarm, Charlotte County sheriff's deputies mobilized five police agencies on land, air and water Friday to search for a man thought to have abducted a child.

The large manhunt came after a woman reported what she thought was a child abduction in the Gulf Cove area at about 10:30 a.m.

She described a man in a red pickup with pool supplies in the back struggling with a girl between 6 and 12 years old.

"We had no reason to doubt her," Charlotte County sheriff's spokesman Bob Carpenter said. The woman did not have a cell phone and drove 20 minutes to work to call police.

Sheriff's deputies set a staging area in a grocery store parking lot at State Road 776 and County Road 771. Detectives and dog, marine and aviation units began searching the area and running down leads.

No one had reported a missing child, so deputies checked schools and sent a reverse 911 call to homes in the area.

Police from Lee and Sarasota counties assisted along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Three hours later, North Port police showed up at the Price Boulevard home of Leonard Haslage, who operates a window and pool cleaning business with his 17-year-old daughter and who drives a red Nissan pickup.

Haslage's daughter answered the door and was surprised to see police.

"We felt pretty comfortable we were on the right track," said North Port Police Sgt. Charles Ayres, who drove to the Haslage house with another officer.

He said the daughter "looks young for her age" and Leonard Haslage "matched the description to a T."

Charlotte County deputies arrived with the witness a few minutes later, and she identified Haslage as the man she had seen.

Haslage and his daughter said they had been in the Englewood area but they had not done anything that could be interpreted as a struggle, Carpenter said.

The caller "did absolutely the right thing" by contacting police, he said.

Carpenter said he did not think police overreacted.

"We have to assume she was right," Carpenter said.

A release on the incident said that the agencies communicated "via radio seamlessly through shared radio channels and patching capabilities."

The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office came under fire for its handling of 911 calls in the January 2008 abduction and murder of Denise Lee. She was the daughter of a Charlotte County sheriff's sergeant, and her disappearance touched off an expansive search by multiple agencies that ultimately failed to save her. Communications mistakes made on the night of her killing have spawned a broader movement to change the way emergency calls are handled in Florida and across the nation.