Friday, December 18, 2009

Chief Terry Lewis and the North Port Police Department

Gosh, lots going on in the past week. At the forefront, another 9-1-1 tragedy in Southwest Florida. Sadly, it occurred in North Port. For those of you that do not know North Port is where Denise was kidnapped, raped and murdered. During the abduction the convicted murderer, Michael King, drove over the county line into Charlotte County. After an eye witness spotted Denise and called 9-1-1 the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office failed to dispatch a car and missed several BOLOs (Be On the Look Outs). Their 9-1-1 center (CCSO) failed miserably in several areas on just that one call. Then they were not forthcoming with the information. They tried to cover up. It was not until 2 days AFTER Denise was abducted that North Port found out about the call. Denise was found that same day, 2 days after her abduction, in a 4' hole in a fetal position having been shot in the head. Where? On a side street off Toledo Blade, the last street the eyewitness saw the kidnapping on. It still disgusts me, and most like always will, that the CCSO 9-1-1 center failed, and worse they were not forthcoming. They chose to try a shove it under the rug. To me, that department is being run by politicians and not sheriffs.

Anyhow, now North Port has their own 9-1-1 tragedy. Brian Wood was seen outside his truck last Friday evening. He appeared in distress. A young couple drove to the nearest 7-11 and called 9-1-1 on a payphone. The young man, Mark Macinski Jr, did not get the name of the street properly. He knew it began with "love" but could not remember whether it was Lovebird or Lovesong. But he had directions to the spot. He gave them to the call taker. She said the system does not work that way and she could not find a road beginning with "love". The next day in the early evening, Manisci went back. The road was "Lovering" and the man was still there. 18 hours later and he was now dead.

The similarities of the cases are how tragic they are. The loss of life. The breakdown. Something gone wrong. Another person dead due to 9-1-1 inefficiencies. Who is at fault? Some blame the caller for not going back yet he was uncomfortable going back. He was not sure of the danger. Others blame the call taker. Others blame the supervisors. All I know is we have to do something because people are dying.

The differences? The most glaring difference in my opinion is the leadership. Having worked with Chief Lewis throughout Denise's case, we have great confidence that he will do the right thing by finding out what went wrong and doing something about it unlike Charlotte County who still does not admit doing anything wrong.

God be with you, Chief Lewis, and give you guidance, courage and strength to do the right thing.

What would I do? I would probably not fire the call taker. But, I would remove her from the 9-1-1 center and transfer her to a different job. Having listened to the 9-1-1 call, I really do not think she should be in there accepting calls. Unlike the call taker in our case, Millie Stepp, who had received previous reprimands for not using the CAD appropriately, it appears this call taker has an unblemished record. So, transfer her. Not all people are cut out to be call takers. But that's just my opinion.