Friday, January 15, 2010

Sunday marks 2 years

This Sunday will mark the second anniversary of Denise's death. My mind has been on her quite a bit recently. Between the holidays, Noah turning 4 (gosh I still think of him as 2), the trial, end of year newspaper stories etc... It's tough not having Denise on my mind.

I keep visualizing her coming through the door into the kitchen at our old house carrying Adam in his carseat. The carseat was huge, Adam weighed a ton, and Denise was so petite. Every time I think of her she's smiling.

"Every time I think of her she's smiling"...... hmmm... that's not totally true. In the beginning I could not get what happened to her out of my mind. It was hard thinking of her without visualising in some way the pain and terror of how she suffered. She was a beautiful, sweet young woman. If there were any flaws about her, I certainly never saw them.

But, it's true that now when I think of Denise the evil part (michael King's evil) does not always intrude.

The world lost a very wonderful person when it lost Denise. She was innocent, she was kind, she was sweet, loving, giving and truly selfless. The boys and Nathan always came first with her. Gosh, how she loved Nathan. She worshiped the ground he walked on. And how Nathan loved her and still loves her. He says he'll never stop loving her. It is all so very humbling.

The boys are doing well. We do not see them as much as we were and I miss them desperately. Adam has become a 2 year old hellion. He's so damn cute and he has Denise's smile. He's a stinker! And he knows it... he also knows how damn cute he is! Noah on the other hand is a tad bit more serious and very practical about just about everything. Both are precious... Oh, Denise... I'm crying not having you here. I know you are with us. I believe that or at least I do my best to believe that. We are doing our part to keep your spirit alive. I miss you so much.

It's unbelievable that people question our grieving. They have absolutely no clue.

Sunday we will be going to church as a family.

We are still working on the 9-1-1 front. We're doing our best behind the scenes to see that legislation in Florida passed. We are speaking at different county delegations trying to encourage the legislators to make 9-1-1 reform a priority. The response has been very good. Mark usually has me speak when Nathan cannot be there. I'm getting better at it. It is not so easy putting pain on display. My nerves are usually frazzled before I speak and afterward. But it is something I want to do.

Denise should be alive today. There is no doubt in my mind about that. She'd be damaged, sure. But she'd be home with people loving her.

As to Michael King? His picture was in the paper the other day. (His appeals have started.) He looks like Uncle Fester in the Addams Family only evil. But no matter. Even if they were to hang him tomorrow it would not bring Denise back.

Miss you, Denise. I wish we could hug. I wish I could caress your face just one more time. You were beautiful inside and out. Oh sweetie.


Monday, January 11, 2010

NENA letter written by Craig Whittington to NBC

The letter below is from the current President of NENA to NBC in response to the Today Show airing last week. Momentum for National training and certification standards is building!!

To all NENA members and 9-1-1 professionals proudly serving in our nation's PSAP's. The follow letter was sent to NBC Last Friday...

Craig W

Craig Whittington, ENP
9-1-1 & Special Projects Coordinator
Guilford Metro 9-1-1
Greensboro, NC
NC NENA 9-1-1 Hall of Frame

National Emergency Number Association (NENA)

On Thursday, January 7, NBC's Today show ran a segment entitled, "911 [sic] Emergency: Are Operators Ready for Your Call?" Like anyone who saw this report, my heart goes out to Ms. Cantrell and her family. The loss of a child, especially one as young as Matthew, is every parent's worst nightmare. Mr. Rossen's report highlighted a number of the most pressing issues facing 9-1-1 today, including insufficient training requirements and standards, the
raiding of state 9-1-1 funds, and a lack of strong coordination and oversight at both the state and federal levels.

However, I regret that the story did not adequately represent the reality of 9-1-1 service in this country. Americans have come to expect a high quality of service when dialing 9-1-1, and rightly so; the public's expectations have been generated because our nation's emergency communications professionals have provided the public they serve with reliable, consistent, timely, and professional service literally billions of times since the nation's first 9-1-1 system was implemented just more than forty years ago.

Since the beginning, 9-1-1 has continuously and successfully adapted to changes in communication technologies and devices (cell phones, Voice over IP, etc.), overcoming a lack of funding, cooperative and proactive system planning and deployment, or comprehensive, nationwide standards for training of 9-1-1 telecommunicators. While the calls highlighted in the Today segment (including a Detroit call taker chastising a young boy for calling 9-1-1 and another telecommunicator falling asleep during a call) provide ample fodder for television and print stories, they are certainly the extreme exception and not the rule when it comes to everyday 9-1-1 center operations.

Additionally, no 9-1-1 call taker should ever be blamed if their local government or 9-1-1 Authority has not implemented practices designed to help telecommunicators save lives, such as Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD).

These implementations are major local policy decisions involving the 9-1-1 center, the local government, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provider, and Medical Director in order to ensure proper training, oversight, and regular audit and review. The decision to use EMD cannot be made at the discretion of the telecommunicator working in the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). Further, just "knowing CPR" as discussed in Mr. Rossen's interview with Ms. Cantrell does not sufficiently prepare a telecommunicator to provide CPR instructions over the phone. Walking a caller to 9-1-1 through a medical procedure, even one that may seem as basic as CPR, requires that an approved EMD training and certification provider certify the telecommunicator in EMD and that the 9-1-1 agency have an ongoing and approved EMD program (most often operated under strict state guidelines and inclusive of a regular Quality Assurance and Improvement process to assure compliance with the EMD program).

Nevertheless, no call for help should ever be mishandled. Any tragedy occurring because of a lack of training, supervision, or other shortfall of the 9-1-1 system is simply unacceptable. I, along with the thousands of NENA Members across North America, stand beside APCO President Mirgon, his association's membership, Congresswoman Eshoo, and the Congressional E9-1-1 Caucus in our commitment to working with all stakeholders in the emergency communications field, including decision makers at all levels of government, to ensure that our nation's 9-1-1 professionals are trained and equipped to deliver the same
high-level service to every caller - no matter where they live or travel or what device they use to contact 9-1-1. That is why NENA, in no uncertain terms, supports the development and implementation of standardized, mandatory, nationwide training requirements for every 9-1-1 telecommunicator serving in each of our nation's more than 6,000 PSAPs.

Further, in order to ensure that all Americans have access to the 9-1-1 service they expect and deserve, the patchwork technical solutions of the past will no longer suffice. Our nation's safety and security from threats both natural and manmade necessitate a new approach. As was alluded to during the Today story, most states underfund the vital system and infrastructure upgrades that are needed to ensure that 9-1-1 is able to effectively and efficiently handle all calls. The public and policy makers must be made aware of the need for an IP-based Next Generation emergency communications system that harnesses the power of broadband to ensure that all entities in the response chain can communicate and transmit voice, images, and data seamlessly.

In closing, I am sure we can agree that 9-1-1 personnel are our nation's first first responders and their training must be of the highest possible caliber. Each and every dollar spent on the training of our 9-1-1 professionals should be looked at as an investment in the quality of life for the community they serve and NOT as just another government expense. No one should ever call 9-1-1 for assistance and not get the very best trained public safety professional (with access to the best available technological resources) to answer their call for help. Lives depend on it.

I look forward to working with NBC and all other media outlets on future stories fully portraying both the successes and shortfalls of the 9-1-1 system as we work to educate and inform the public and government officials about the challenges faced by public safety professionals every day and how we can work together to solve them.


Craig Whittington, ENP
NENA President

Today's Sun

King's Lawyers file death penalty appeal

SARASOTA -- Attorneys for Michael King have listed 21 reasons why he should not be put to death, including that the death penalty is "unconstitutional" and the state should not have used eyewitness 911 calls as evidence during his trial.

On Dec. 21, King's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Carolyn Schlemmer, filed a motion to the Attorney General Criminal Appeals and the Clerk of the Florida Supreme Court appealing a judge's decision to sentence King to death.

Last year, King was found guilty in the kidnapping, rape and murder of 21-year-old Denise Amber Lee.

King held Lee at gunpoint when he took her from her North Port home on Jan. 17, 2008. Her remains were found two days later, buried in a wooded area of Toledo Blade Boulevard.

After a three-week trial at the Sarasota County Courthouse that ended in September, all 12 jurors recommended a death sentence.

During the December sentencing, 12th Circuit Judge Deno Economou became emotional while reading into the record what King did to Lee. He agreed with the jury, sentencing King to death.

Florida law requires an automatic appeal in all capital murder cases such as King's.

In Schlemmer's appeal, she calls the death penalty -- reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 -- unconstitutional. The appeal states the defense counsel should have been allowed to further interview jurors, and criticizes a unanimous decision needed for the jury to conclude in the penalty phase of the trial, as well as "unreliable and misleading evidence" from a state Department of Law Enforcement firearms analyst.

It goes on to state the 911 call Lee made while trapped inside of King's Camaro should not have been allowed in court, as well as another 911 call played in court made by witness Jane Kowalski, who saw King's car on the evening Lee was taken. Kowalski reported someone -- now known to be Lee -- screaming and slapping the window in the back seat of the Camaro, stopped at a traffic light next to her.

The prosecution's use of bullet casings, voice identification and allowing state doctors to evaluate King during the trial is also being appealed. Schlemmer being denied a motion for a mistrial and an acquittal are also listed as grounds for an appeal, according to the attorney.

Schlemmer wrote that King was denied a change of venue outside Sarasota, therefore, he was not given a "fair trial." The suppression of certain evidence and the court's finding of King's competency during the trial are also listed.

Schlemmer noted there were "errors" made in the sentencing order, as well as "the court's error" in allowing "certain portions of victim impact statements during the penalty phase" of the trial.

However, before the trial, Schlemmer filed motions to have some evidence suppressed -- such as King's demeanor when he was arrested and early evidence collected in a police raid of King's North Port house where Lee was raped -- and won.

Schlemmer could not be reached for comment.

Assistant State Attorney Lon Arend said he believed King, who stared straight ahead and was emotionless through most of the trial, faked a mental illness.

"He was competent to stand trial," Arend said. "We had tapes from the night he was arrested showing Michael speaking and moving around. They were suppressed, so the jury never saw them."

Arend said an appeal is the appropriate step in King's case.

"It is important that each and every issue brought up by the defense in the trial be included on the notice of appeal so that they can be reviewed by the Supreme Court," he said. "In order for a just, true sentence to be carried out, everyone has to be ensured that the defendant received a fair trial, and the Supreme Court review is an automatic part of the process.

"The fact that his attorneys have so thoroughly documented every possible argument is a testament to their professionalism, and should assist the Florida Supreme Court in what hopefully will be a thorough yet expeditious review of the trial," he said.

Arend said that if King's appeal is not overturned, he could be executed -- most likely by lethal injection -- in five years.

"It should not take 15 years," he said. "Laws have changed to make executions more speedy when appeals have been exhausted."



North Port Community News Editor

Friday, January 8, 2010

Today's Herald Tribune Editorial

When 911 goes right

Tampa episode offers a model for other departments to emulate

Published: Friday, January 8, 2010 at 1:00 a.m. Last Modified: Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 6:48 p.m.

Sometimes, 911 call-takers fail to live up to the public's high expectations. But sometimes they exceed them, in extraordinary fashion.

A Tampa 911 case this week fell into the latter category, exemplifying all that can go right when technology and operators work well together.

As described in the St. Petersburg Times and other Tampa Bay area news sources, the case involved an attempted rape in progress.

Ve'Etta Bess took the 911 call, secretly dialed by the victim, and heard only silence and screams. Yet, with a combination of skill, intuition and grace-under-pressure teamwork, she and her colleagues tracked and confirmed the location of the crime, dispatching police in time to stop the assault.

That is the kind of performance that people expect from the emergency communications system, yet 911 calls don't always have such a happy ending.

Dispatching errors, operator mistakes and address confusion, for example, were seen in North Port, Charlotte County and Sarasota in the past two years. Other communities and states have had problems as well.

Such cases -- most infamously the failure to relay emergency calls that might have caught a kidnapper before he killed Denise Lee of North Port -- have sparked a strong push for 911 reforms in Florida. Local legislators have proposed bills that would improve oversight of the emergency-call system and work to make it more seamless.

Lawmakers weighing these reforms may learn something from the Tampa case.

A few points stand out:

Bess, the Tampa 911 call-taker, has more than three years' experience.

The Tampa department trains call-takers extensively, using close observation, and hands-on and role-playing strategies. Diana Hall, training coordinator for the Tampa department, said 600 hours of training and classes are required.

The crew had recently taken a refresher course on how to find callers through cell-tower location -- a skill that proved crucial in this case.

The Tampa episode embodies the often stressful conditions involved in 911 work.

At one point, when the attacker discovered the cell phone on the floor, Bess had the presence of mind to stay silent so the man would think the 911 call -- the numbers visible on the phone screen -- had not gone through.

All the while, she was multitasking to identify the location, signal her co-workers and alert police.

With a little less skill, luck and technology, the call could have gone disastrously wrong -- but it went right. All communities should learn from this example.