Monday, March 22, 2010

Life on the Line by: Andrew Douglas

Special Report: Life on the Line

Posted: Mar 09, 2010 4:37 PM EST
Updated: Mar 09, 2010 11:00 PM EST

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - When you dial 911, you expect a well-trained operator to help you get through an emergency. But where you live could mean the difference between immediate help, and help on the way.

911 operators have one of the most important jobs during emergencies, serving as a link to life when an injured person is waiting for help to arrive.

C. J. Walker is manager of communications for the Memphis Fire Department's 911 service. Her department is certified and accredited to give anyone on the other end of the line life-saving instructions immediately in any emergency situation.

"They do have a script that they have to go by with CPR to make sure those instructions are given properly," she said. "A drowning, cuts, people who are wounded, people who are shot - they can tell people how to stop the bleeding."

In fact, all 911 operators in Shelby County are certified to give this information. The same goes for 911 operators in DeSoto County, and the entire state of Mississippi.

"To me it's essential," said DeeAnna Davis, who works in communications for DeSoto County. "We're their lifeline...their link. Without it, I've seen many that wouldn't make it."

But the Action News 5 Investigators uncovered many Mid-South cities, as well as smaller communities, that do not train their operators to give out medical information.

Zane Boyd, the supervisor of Crittenden County, Arkansas' 911 service, said his operators are not trained to offer medical instruction immediately.

"We get their information regarding medical, get their information of where they live, their phone number and what kind of problem they have, and then we connect them to the appropriate ambulance service," Boyd said.

Crittenden County medics are then dispatched, but the person on the phone must wait for medical help until those medics arrive.

We asked Boyd how fast their average response time is.

"Average? It's probably eight to ten minutes," he said.

To some, that is too much time.

"Someone choking only has so long with air, and if your ambulance response time is eight minutes, it's too long," Davis said.

Boyd agreed that if a dispatcher is not able to give instructions over the phone, that could lead to death, whereas if there was some instruction in place, they could be save.

"Possibly," he said. "Yes sir, that is possible."

911 operators in Crittenden County are not the only ones who do not give out medical instruction over the phone. Action News 5 contacted 18 emergency 911 services in West Tennessee, and we found more agencies that do not train their operators to offer medical instruction than those that do.

Instead, many agencies pass on the call to another emergency service. And like in Crittenden County, Arkansas, they do it because there is not enough money to do things differently."

"At this point it's kind of unreasonable because of the personnel that we have," Boyd said. "We don't have enough personnel to focus on that type of deal."

Pay is a major issue.

"It's not very practical because the salaries are not enough to be competitive," Boyd said. "It's kind of like you get what you pay for."

The starting pay for a 911 operator in Crittenden County is $9.50 an hour. Across the state line in Memphis, it's almost $16.00 per hour, and in DeSoto County, operators are paid nearly $18.00 per hour.

"There is a wide gap between some," Walker said. "It just depends on the agency and municipality."

Emergency personnel say until that gap is closed, and more states start requiring 911 operators to offer medical instruction, you may find help is on the way, instead of on the line.

It has been a while

since I have blogged. We have had a lot going on in the past few weeks. As you probably realize with all the articles I have been posting, the Florida legislators are in session. I finally had to stop posting articles because I was becoming emotionally ill. Sometimes I wonder when it all will stop. I guess we could step away at anytime but even so, I do not believe the pain will end. I do know that by going to Tallahassee, being involved, no matter how sick I feel about it all and the constant reliving of Denise's tragedy, it is the right thing to do. These pieces of legislation are so important if we are ever to see the 9-1-1 system improve. I keep thinking of Brian Wood who laid dead beside a remote road for 18 hours because a call taker dismissed a teenager's call to her. Ugh! Then I go through a litany of other victims and well..... I cannot walk away. The suffering and pain sometimes is unbearable and I feel as if I will breakdown if I go on. But, then who is stepping up? Who is speaking out? Who else is outraged? i guess I am obssessed.

Today's Sun Herald by Elaine Allen-Emrich:

Denise Amber Lee's story captured in 911 training video

The video camera rolled as Peggy Lee fought tears. Talking about the horrific 911 call her daughter-in-law, Denise Amber Lee, made on the day she was brutally murdered is always traumatic for Peggy.

More than two years after Denise's death, Peggy still can hardly bear to hear the call. Rather, she holds on to the positive exchange the two shared the night before Denise was abducted from her North Port home on Jan. 17, 2008.

"Denise's last words were that she loved me," said Peggy, adding that the next and final time she would hear Denise's voice was in the 911 call as she cried and begged for her life. Denise, 21, had been kidnapped at gunpoint and was trapped in the back of Michael King's Camaro.

But now, Peggy says it's time for others to hear the call and hopefully learn from Denise's careful clues to the 911 operator.

Without King knowing, Denise got a hold of his prepaid cell phone and dialed 911. She gave the call taker valuable information about who she was, her address and her family before the call abruptly ended six minutes later. The call made jurors in King's trial understand her helplessness and suffering just hours before she died.

"Everyone needs to listen to the call because it has so many teaching moments," Peggy said. "If it means helping someone else, then it is worth it."

Before sentencing King to death, 12th Circuit Judge Deno Economou said it is "rare that one can actually hear such emotion in the voice of an innocent victim who is doomed to be murdered. The 911 recording of the victim tragically reveals her fear, mental state, terror and her emotional strain."

Peggy was recently interviewed for a training video and documentary about Denise by Kevin Willet, the founder of 911 Cares, which offers emotional support and financial assistance for communicators in crisis. It is part of Public Safety Training Consultants, America's largest in-service training provider, according to its Web site.

After meeting Denise's widower, Nathan Lee, who served as the keynote speaker at an out-of-state 911 conference, Willet asked if he could recreate Denise's last day alive for a training video for telecommunications operators.

Also interviewed were Denise's father, Rick Goff, a longtime Charlotte County Sheriff's Office sergeant, King trial jurors and witness Jane Kowalski who also called 911 to report details of a suspicious Camaro with someone screaming and banging on the car window for help. The 911 call taker Kowalski spoke with didn't send law enforcement despite a massive manhunt for Denise hours after she disappeared.

"I'm going to give copies of the DVD to the Denise Amber Lee Foundation (for 911 reform)," Willet said. "I expect to have the video complete next month."

Peggy said the video can be used to give to politicians and others possibly interested in supporting laws to make 911 training standards universal throughout the country.

"Every time we speak about fixing the problems with the 911 system, we have to relive Denise's story," Peggy said. "It's emotionally draining. I know before I speak in public, I reread my statement 20 or 30 times ahead of time. I relive it over and over again."

Peggy said if she had the video she would have used it Thursday after being allowed less than one minute to testify before the state House Energy and Utilities Committee. Peggy and her husband Mark traveled six hours to attend the hearing in Tallahassee. They support a House bill that would charge a small fee (1 percent) from prepaid cell phones and calling cards to pay for universal 911 training standards. The measure could generate about $11 million annually. A 50 cent-per-month fee is already applied to home and cell phones.

Due to time constraints, House members decided to delay the vote on HB 163 bill until this week.

"If I had the DVD, I could have given it to the House representatives and asked them to watch it when they had a chance," Peggy said. "We will be able to do that at conferences, conventions and dinners. We know this DVD will be shown in Canada and as far away as Samoa."

Peggy said her son Nathan could have also given U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, a copy of the DVD after the two met in Washington, D.C., last week. Buchanan helped present the E-911 Institute's 911 Advocacy Award for 2010 to Nathan for creating the Denise Amber Lee Foundation and lobbying Florida legislators to raise standards for its 235 emergency call systems.

"The fact that it (Denise's murder) may have been prevented makes it all the more tragic," Buchanan said in a statement. "I applaud Nathan for working to turn a tragedy into something positive that could help save lives in the future."

The E-911 Institute is a Washington advocacy group that promotes public education on 911 and emergency communications issues.



North Port Community News Editor

Monday, March 15, 2010

St Petersburg Times

A Times Editorial
Keep recordings of 911 calls public
In Print: Monday, March 15, 2010

Florida's accidental House speaker, Larry Cretul, has not left much of an imprint since taking over last year in the wake of the Ray Sansom scandal. Now the Ocala Republican is manipulating the legislative process on behalf of a powerful constituent — at the expense of sound public policy. Cretul is fast-tracking a bill that would exempt recordings of 911 calls from public records laws, which would make it more difficult to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for the way they respond to emergencies. It is an effort driven more by emotion than clear-headed reason, and lawmakers who embrace open government should reject this effort to keep these recordings secret.

Proposed House Government Affairs Policy Committee Bill 10-03a would allow only public safety officials — and no one else — access to 911 recordings, including recordings made before the bill became law. The measure might as well be called the Relieve Police Officers, Firefighters and 911 Operators From Accountability Act. Exposing the failures of ill-trained, bungling or malicious police, fire and emergency personnel would become infinitely harder.

The bill would silence the voices of victims like Denise Amber Lee, whose horrific abduction in Sarasota County at the hands of a murderer was captured in a series of 911 calls that revealed a dispatcher's mistakes that likely cost Lee her life. Lee's husband, Nathan, courageously opposes the bill and notes that "911 issues need more transparency and not less if we are ever to learn from past mistakes."

Cretul's sudden interest in secrecy stems from the drug overdose death last year of the 16-year-old son of the president of the Florida Farm Bureau, a powerful advocacy group of growers and ranchers headquartered in Cretul's district. The father, John Hoblick, told Cretul his family was traumatized when local television stations played the 911 recording of his older son's call after he found his younger brother unresponsive. No one enjoys hearing tapes of their relatives' anguished calls for help in a crisis. But as Nathan Lee notes, there is a greater public issue at stake.

For example, after recordings from Lee's murder became public, the Legislature passed the Denise Amber Lee act two years ago, establishing voluntary statewide certification for emergency dispatchers. If lawmakers embrace this latest bill, citizens would only be allowed written transcripts of 911 calls. Those transcripts would be available 60 days later, with the individual seeking the record paying for the transcription.

A belated, written transcription is not enough. Transcripts can be ambiguous, and they lack tone and context. As Lee's father, Mark Lee, said about recordings: "It's like a song. . . . Hearing a song is a lot more powerful than reading the lyrics." He also opposes Cretul's bill.

Cretul stacked the House committee last week to make sure the bill passed, 8-5. But two-thirds of both the House and Senate are required to approve a public record exemption, and the speaker is still trying to recruit an influential Senate sponsor. It is never easy for many lawmakers to stand up to a House speaker who has control over the fate of their own bills and budget issues — particularly when initial public sentiment may be on his side. But emotional responses to specific incidents often make bad law. Making recordings of 911 tapes secret would cloud Florida's legacy of government-in-the-sunshine and make it more difficult to hold emergency personnel accountable for their actions in the minutes when residents need them most.

[Last modified: Mar 15, 2010 08:33 AM]

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stay in the Sunshine

And editorial on today's

Openness can be messy, but it's essential

House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, no doubt is a man of character. Keeping his promise to a friend and constituent who was horrified to hear a 911 call linked to his son's death broadcast on TV, Mr. Cretul is working to exempt 911 calls from Florida's public records laws.

We are sympathetic to his friend. This had to be horrifying. It provides yet another example of how open government and freedom can be messy. It is that freedom, as messy as it might be, and our history of government transparency that we celebrate today on Sunshine Sunday in America, an event created and popularized in the Sunshine State.

The proposed bill would be a blow to open government and to citizen efforts to watch over the actions of government.

The House might actually pass the bill, if Mr. Cretul decides to force it through, as he did in earning an 8-5 passage in a House committee. We urge that it die there, that the House not approve it. While there is currently no Senate version of the bill, that could change in the blink of a political deal come budget crunch time.

If the bill somehow works its way through the full Legislature, as unlikely as it might seem, we would urge Gov. Charlie Crist, who says he opposes it, to use his veto.

While this is a kind and sympathetic gesture on Mr. Cretul's part, it would be awful public policy.

Already under current law, personal identifying information about callers is redacted when 911 tapes are released. That's what exemptions do: They protect inappropriate intrusions into the privacy expectations of individuals in order to allow citizens to know what their government is doing.

But exempting all 911 tapes is not like most other exemptions. This one would remove from citizen review one of the most crucial interactions of the public and its government. Lives and property are at stake when the call is made to emergency dispatchers. How well they and other public safety workers respond might not be the only time a citizen interacts with government, but it might be the only one that ultimately matters.

Ask the family of Denise Amber Lee, a 21-year-old mother of two who was kidnapped from her North Port home, raped and murdered. Her call to 911 was not forwarded to police. The dispatchers were eventually disciplined.

Her family opposes the exemption.
Mrs. Lee's father-in-law, Mark Lee, called it "a bad, bad bill." Her family has worked to provide training to emergency dispatchers across the country, and to hold them accountable. This bill would work against everything his family is trying to accomplish, Mr. Lee said.
We are equally sympathetic to this father.
In our region, local emergency radio traffic already has been taken off the air waves and encrypted, blocking immediate public access and review; now comes this bill, which would exempt review after the fact as well.
The legislative leadership has talked about wanting to make government more efficient. If that is just code for smaller, that is one thing. But if it truly wants government to work smarter and better, it must understand that this must occur in the open, in full public view with provisions that allow the public to identify failures and to fix them.
We are sympathetic to those who want to block nosy neighbors from intruding in family matters. It should not, however, be the job of government to help with problematic neighbors or to compromise all of our rights to access and watch our government.

It is, as we said earlier, another example of the messiness of free and open government. Government in the Sunshine is less than perfect, but as Florida has long known, better than any alternative.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Punta Gorda death Herald Tribune and ABC 7

911 worker transferred after ambulance delay

Staff Report

Published: Friday, March 12, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 11:34 p.m.

CHARLOTTE COUNTY - An ambulance delay of 14 minutes for an elderly Punta Gorda woman in cardiac arrest led the Punta Gorda Police Department to transfer 911 worker Nancy Morris and investigate her handling of the call last week.

Josephine Henry, 91, was pronounced dead shortly after care workers at her assisted living center called 911.

Police say it appears an ambulance would not have saved her, but they are taking the mix-up seriously.

"Was it human error? Policy? Equipment? We're trying to find the problem and correct it," said Punta Gorda Police spokesman Troy Bettencourt.

The investigation into the Friday night call is ongoing, but police said that Morris immediately dispatched a police officer and fire truck but apparently failed to contact ambulance workers who are employed by Charlotte County, not the city.

Morris was one of two people on duty at the police dispatch center when the call came in at 11:04 p.m. on Friday, March 5.

Bettencourt said the dispatchers were busy with another medical call, a missing person case, and assisting police on an arrest. It was also shift change time.

"It can get very busy in there sometimes," Bettencourt said.

The Punta Gorda fire fighters, who are trained to give CPR, arrived at the assisted living center in two minutes and began trying to resuscitate Henry.

Morris is performing administrative tasks until the investigation is completed. She is a communications supervisor with the department and the most highly trained 911 worker.

Jackie Barron News Channel 8

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hernando Today

By TONY HOLT | Hernando Today

Published: March 11, 2010

TALLAHASSEE - Proponents of a House bill think it provides long-overdue protection to the privacy of crime victims.

First Amendment advocates think it goes too far and would remove accountability for 911 operators and rescue responders.

Crime victims themselves seem split on the issue.

On Wednesday, a House panel approved Florida Bill PCB GAP 10-03, which would bar the public from hearing audio recordings of 911 calls. Only a judge could grant an exception.

Furthermore, it would delay public access to the written transcripts of a 911 call for 60 days.

"I think this balances privacy with accountability," said Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Brooksville, who wrote the bill.

"In speaking with many people who have made 911 calls, it's usually a very tragic incident and they don't want to have to hear it on the news," he continued. "This is meant to protect their privacy."

Schenck wouldn't discuss his own experiences with emergency calls, but said he has had several conversations with people who have called 911 and who support the bill.

"The media hasn't been very happy with it for obvious reasons," Schenck said.

John Hoblick, president of the Florida Farm Bureau, pushed for such a ban after television stations played a recording of a 911 call about his son's drug overdose.

Schenck said he has had no conversations with Hoblick.

"We don't like it. It's bad public policy," said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee. "I understand the motivation … but we have to be equally sympathetic of those who have suffered because of the mistakes of 911 operators."

Petersen also complained of the "strong-fisted" tactics used to ram the bill through the committee Wednesday.

"If this passes, it's an exception to the Constitution," she said.

Brooksville Police Chief George Turner said he had "mixed emotions" about the bill.

Hernando County Sheriff Nugent said while the bill doesn't seem perfect, he supports the spirit behind it.

"I think there is a lot of merit in it," Nugent said. "You really need to take victims into account."

Both Nugent and Schenck think releasing the transcripts of 911 emergency calls in 60 days is sufficient.

Schenck argued accountability is not taken away because anyone can petition the court for an audio recording. Secondly, if someone suspects there was wrongdoing or negligence on the part of a 911 operator, the bill still allows for victims to file claims or report their suspicions to the authorities.

Courtenay Strickland, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the existing law pertaining to 911 calls already has privacy protections in place.

Florida statute 365.171 Chapter 12 states the name, addresses, telephone number or personal information about or information which may identify any person requesting emergency service or reporting an emergency is confidential.

Strickland thinks that is sufficient.

She also thinks waiting 60 days is too long.

"We respect the intent of the bill, but as we've seen in other news reports, there are some victims out there who don't want the kinds of protections outlined in this bill," Strickland said.

One of those victims is Nate Lee, the husband of Denise Amber Lee.

Lee's wife was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 2008. He recalled the torment he and his family went through when his wife's 911 call on her killer's cell phone was played on the evening news.

Lee recently told a reporter he thought public access to the 911 audio exposed the mistakes made by the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office when it took the call.

"If there's something wrong and a 911 center botches the call or something happens, I want to know what's going on," Lee said.

Nugent said he is encouraged to see the Legislature address privacy rights. He doesn't think Florida law protects crime victims enough.

"Is it a perfect bill? I don't know about that," he said. "But it does bring the issue to light. It's important to have a debate about that."

WFLA reporter Jackie Barron contributed to this story.

Reporter Tony Holt can be reached at 352-544-5283 or

From Youtube

recent articles and links

from Michael Pelter (March 9, 2010) West Olando News Online :

from Martin Merzer (March 10, 2010)Florida AP (Miami Herald Media Co.):

from Dara Kam (March 9, 2010) Post on Politics (The Palm Beach Post):

from Dara Kam (March 8, 2010) The Palm Beach Post:

from Jackie Barron (March 11, 2010) Tampa Bay Online:

from John Frank (March 10, 2010) Miami Herald:

From Lloyd Dunkelberger (March 11, 2010) Herald Tribune:

From Eric Ernst (March 10, 2010) Herald Tribune editorial:

From Sara Kennedy (March 11, 2010)

From the Dayton Beach News Journal (March 11, 2010):

From Whitney Ray (March 10, 2010) Capitol News Service:

and this:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Charlotte Sun

Bill approved by House Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday

North Port Community News Editor

A bill to keep 911 audio recordings from being made public was approved 8-5 in the House Governmental Affairs Policy Committee Wednesday in Tallahassee.

The bill was introduced after John Hoblick, the CEO of the Florida Farm Bureau's 16-year-old son, was found dead on May 30. The teen allegedly died of an accidental overdose following a night of drinking games and experimenting with prescription drugs, according to investigative reports. The next day, a portion of the one-minute 911 call made by Hoblick's 20-year-old son was aired on DeLeon Springs, Fla., TV news.

Hoblick told Government Affairs Policy Committee House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, that hearing the 911 tape brings back painful memories. He asked Cretul to ban the release of 911 tapes to the public.

The bill would make transcripts of a 911 tapes available after 60 days and allows a judge to decide if a tape can be released "upon a showing of good cause."

Not everyone believes the bill is good for Floridians.

"Can I go to the House Speaker and ask for an exemption to the Florida Sunshine Law?" said Barbara Peterson, president of the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee. The foundation is a nonprofit group that lobbies for open government. "I'm no one, so I wouldn't get preferential treatment. There is someone who is well-known -- Nathan Lee, who is lobbying for 911 standards, and he is against this bill. He too has been impacted by a family member's death, and he believes 911 calls should be transparent."

Lee, who could not attend Wednesday's hearing because he was receiving a national citizen advocacy award from the E911 Institute in Washington, D.C., wrote a letter to the committee.

"We believe 911 issues need more transparency and not less if we are everto learn from past mistakes," he wrote. "Five 911 calls were made the day my wife, Denise Amber Lee, was kidnapped from our home (in January 2008 in North Port) by a complete stranger. One was made by Denise herself when she dialed 911 with her killer's cell phone without his knowledge.

"During the recent murder trial, we had to listen to over six minutes of this painful call where she begged for her life, desperately pleading to come home to me and our two boys," he wrote. "I understand the pain and suffering of having to listen to tragic 911 calls. Another nine-minute 911 call was made that day from a bystander. She provided the exact location ... (but the call) was never dispatched."

The bill is on a fast track to the House floor.

Gov. Charlie Crist said he thinks the tapes ought to remain available but backers of the legislation say they're an invasion of privacy. Crist has indicated he would not sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.

The News Service of Florida and Associated Press contributed to this report.

Palm Beach Post

House leader pushes bill to keep 911 calls private, at behest of GOP contributor

By Dara Kam Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Updated: 8:16 p.m. Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Posted: 7:13 p.m. Wednesday, March 10, 2010

TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Larry Cretul is pushing a measure to make 911 calls secret, on behalf of the president of an association that has contributed nearly $30,000 the state GOP in the past two years.

The controversial proposal has angered some crime victims, who object that it's taking attention away from their efforts to require training for emergency dispatchers.

Cretul used an uncommon procedural maneuver to ensure the bill's passage this morning. He temporarily assigned one of his top lieutenants, House Speaker Pro Tem Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, to the Government Accountability Policy Council meeting to cast a vote in favor of the measure (PCB GAP 10-3).

The committee approved it with an 8-5 vote this morning. To date, the bill lacks a Senate sponsor.

It is unusual for a House Speaker or Senate President to take a personal interest in a bill's success, lawmakers acknowledge. And Cretul's staff, along with council chairman Rob Schenck, the bill's sponsor, had refused to link Cretul with the bill until the Ocala Republican himself said that he is backing the bill at the behest of Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick. The Florida Farm Bureau has contributed $29,000 to the Republican Party of Florida since 2008.

Hoblick's 16-year-old son Jake died from a lethal combination of alcohol and illegal prescription drugs. Hoblick, out of town when his son Jake died, heard his older son John's 911 call on the news and asked Cretul to do something about keeping the emergency calls out of the public domain.

Making the calls secret spares victims and their families the trauma of reliving the tragedies when they are broadcast on television or the Internet, Cretul said. Transcripts of the tapes would be available 60 days later.

"When those folks are calling in, they're generally calling in for help. In some cases, the situations are tragic. In the case of the gentleman that first brought it to my attention, his was a 16-year-old son that had been found after doing something he shouldn't have been doing, by his older brother. You know. It has to be difficult. It is difficult for those families," Cretul, R-Ocala, said.

But Rep. Rick Kriseman, a St. Petersburg Democrat, objected that the transcripts are not available to the victims of the 911 calls unless they made the calls themselves.

Kriseman, a lawyer who voted against the bill, also said automobile manufacturer Toyota may not have responded to quickly to runaway cars without the 911 tapes.

"Had it not been for the recording, the pressure that's now being put on Toyota would not have happened. Because it was through that recording that we learned about the problem with the gas pedals and all the other associated problems. That's a protection that we're losing by putting this in place," Kriseman said.

The husband of Denise Amber Lee, a Northport woman who was murdered after a botched 911 call, pleaded in an e-mail to Cretul and Schenck not to pass the bill, in a message that Cretul apparently ignored until it was called to his attention long after the vote.

Nathan Lee also asked that his message be read at Schenck's committee, but Schenck made no reference to Lee's message at the meeting.

"We believe 9-1-1 issues need more transparency and not less if we are ever to learn from past mistakes," Lee wrote.

In the e-mail, Lee details an eyewitness 911 call that could have saved his late wife's life, had it been handled correctly.

"She provided the exact location of this event and even though there were, by all accounts, four police cars within a mile of this call, it was never dispatched. This call was, obviously, grossly mishandled and would have resulted in the saving of Denise's life," Lee wrote.

"This call was hidden from the public and myself. And even hidden from the police department who was actively investigating the case and searching for my wife for two days. The subsequent internal affairs investigation shows the communication center and agency who took this crucial call were immediately aware that the call was about Denise. The call was suppressed. Had the eyewitness not contacted the North Port Police Department, we may never have known about her call. And the prosecution would have lost the last eyewitness to see my wife alive," he wrote.

Cretul said he supports the 911 training bill.

"But my whole interest in this issue has been watching what it also does to families and what it does to people that call in. They become suddenly out there for all the world to see," Cretul said in an interview. "This is a very tough, very difficult issue. Very sensitive in all respects."

The Lee family is familiar with the pain associated with the 911 calls. A six-minute 911 call made by Denise Amber Lee pleading for her life while she was held captive by the man who was later convicted of murdering her is used in training sessions throughout the nation, Nathan's father Mark Lee said.

The family often attends such sessions, he said.

"We go out of the room. We don't want to listen to it. We don't want to hear it. But if it's helping those people train and be better listeners for the next Denise that calls, it's worth it," Mark Lee said. "Now, we're going to lock those up and we're going to save somebody's feelings. The tragedy isn't the call that was made to 911. The tragedy is what happened."

Despite Cretul's clout in the House, the bill lacks a Senate sponsor.

Sen. Garrett Richter had originally agreed to run a companion for Schenck, R-Spring Hill, but backed off the bill even before controversy surrounding it -- First Amendment and civil rights lawyers also staunchly oppose it -- erupted this week. The Naples Republican said he won't sponsor the measure

Politics at it's shabbiest. Tallahassee.

Thank you Palm Beach Post for bringing to light this issue. I cannot convey my disgust with Tallahassee and am ashamed to admit I am registered Repuplican.

Speaker Cretul ignores e-mail from husband of botched 911 call murder victim

Dara Kam March 10th, 2010

Denise Amber Lee’s six-minute 911 call that helped convict her killer is among the most notorious examples of 911 calls gone wrong, the calls that are now in House Speaker Larry Cretul’s crosshairs as he tries to create a public records exemptions for them.

Her husband Nathan Lee sent an e-mail to the sponsor of Cretul’s bill, House Government Accountability Policy Council Chairman Rob Schenk, pleading with the committee to shoot down the measure that would make 911 call recordings secret except for transcripts that could be available after 60 days. Lee also asked that his message be read at Schenk’s committee hearing the bill (PCB GAP 10-03) before it was voted on this morning.

Schenk made no reference to Lee’s message and did not read it before the measure passed by an 8-5 vote. And Cretul, who used a procedural maneuver to ensure the bill passed, never read it at all. He said he received it last night. Public records show that Cretul, his spokeswoman Jill Chamberlin and Schenk received it around 3:30 p.m. yesterday.

“I haven’t read the e-mail. I’m sure that he makes some excellent points,” Cretul, R-Ocala, said shortly before the House began session at 1 p.m.

Nathan Lee and his parents are pushing a separate 911 bill that would require uniform training standards for 911 dispatchers throughout the state. His wife was killed despite five 911 calls made in two counties, including one from a witness whose call was ignored.

Lee’s e-mail uses the botched handling of the eyewitness’ emergency call made on the day his wife was killed in 2008 to demonstrate why the calls should be available to the public.

“She provided the exact location of this event and even though there were, by all accounts, 4 police cars within a mile of this call, it was never dispatched. This call was, obviously, grossly mishandled and would have resulted in the saving of Denise’s life. Two days after this call, she was found in a grave, naked and with a single gunshot wound to the head. This call was hidden from the public and myself. And even hidden from the police department who was actively investigating the case and searching for my wife for two days. The subsequent internal affairs investigation shows the communication center and agency who took this crucial call were immediately aware that the call was about Denise. The call was suppressed. Had the eyewitness not contacted the North Port Police Department we may never have known about her call. And the prosecution would have lost the last eyewitness to see my wife alive,” Lee wrote.

Cretul said he supports the training and certification bill.

“But my whole interest in this issue has been watching what it also does to families and what it does to people that call in. They become suddenly out there for all the world to see,” Cretul said in an interview. “This is a very tough, very difficult issue. Very sensitive in all respects.”

Read the entire text of Nathan Lee’s message after the jump.

“Dear Representative Schenck,

I am writing to you about PCB GAP 10-03 that has been suggested by your
committee. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend your meeting this morning.
But I would appreciate you reading this email to the committee. Thank you.
As you may or may not know, our foundation was formed out of the tragic
abduction, rape, and murder of my wife, Denise Lee.

Five 9-1-1 calls were made the day she was taken kidnapped from our home
by a complete stranger. One call was made by Denise herself when she
dialed 9-1-1 with her killer’s cell phone without his knowledge. During
the recent murder trial, we had to listen to over 6 minutes of this painful
call where she begged for her life desperately pleading to come home to me
and our 2 boys. I understand the pain and suffering of having to listen to
tragic 9-1-1 calls.

Another 9 minute 9-1-1 call was made that day from a bystander witnessing
the abduction. She provided the exact location of this event and even
though there were, by all accounts, 4 police cars within a mile of this
call, it was never dispatched. This call was, obviously, grossly
mishandled and would have resulted in the saving of Denise’s life. Two
days after this call, she was found in a grave, naked and with a single
gunshot wound to the head. This call was hidden from the public and
myself. And even hidden from the police department who was actively
investigating the case and searching for my wife for two days. The
subsequent internal affairs investigation shows the communication center
and agency who took this crucial call were immediately aware that the call
was about Denise. The call was suppressed. Had the eyewitness not contacted
the North Port Police Department we may never have known about her call.
And the prosecution would have lost the last eyewitness to see my wife

We believe 9-1-1 issues need more transparency and not less if we are ever
to learn from past mistakes.

In the aftermath of our tragedy, we have been invited around the country
to speak at state and national 9-1-1 conferences on the need for a
mandatory, uniform training standard that all 9-1-1 telecommunicators
should be required to take. There is no reason for the general public to
support or demand additional fees be approved for 9-1-1 if these types of
calls are suppressed from the public discussion. The public needs to know
the challenges of the system in order to vote for additional funding to
improve it. This bill would be totally counter-productive to that end. It
only serves to shelter the agencies from scrutiny. We are victims that
this bill purports to represent but we feel saving another family from the
pain and suffering that we have endured is far more important than saving
us from hearing Denise’s last words. Forward thinking legislators with
integrity and vision would see these calls are valuable training moments
and powerful emotional tools to change public policy to improve the system.
Please do not pass this bill.

Thank you for your time and thank you for reading this for me.

Nathan Lee
Denise Amber Lee Foundation”

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Go Charlie! Thank you for speaking up.

Crist not keen on keeping 911 calls secret

by Dara Kam March 9th, 2010

Gov. Charlie Crist said today he may veto a measure that would create a new public records exemption for 911 calls.

First Amendment advocates and some victims vigorously oppose the legislation, the brainchild of House Speaker Larry Cretul and other unidentified House GOP “leaders,” according to Cretul’s spokeswoman Jill Chamberlain.

Cretul believes the calls should be made secret to spare victims from reliving traumatic events when tapes of the emergency calls are broadcast.

But some victims, including the family of one of the most notorious 911-calls-gone wrong kidnap and murder victim Denise Amber Lee, want the calls to remain public to keep dispatchers and law enforcement officials accountable when they err.

Crist, whose first act after becoming governor in 2007 was to create the “Office of Open Government,” said he prefers greater openness and transparency.

“What we can learn after the fact many times with these 911 recordings can be beneficial to make sure that it’s done better in the future because you can discover mistakes or maybe better management practices that can be utilized in the application of 911,” Crist said this morning.

“It’s been a great thing for the people, a great thing for safety and it has saved a lot of lives. But if we keep those secret going forward, we might not be able to continue to learn from those experiences as to what might help people in the future,” he said.

The House Government Policy Accountability Council is slated to take up the measure (PCB GAP 10-3, PCB GAP 10-3A) tomorrow morning.

Orlando Sentinel

Crist takes issue with bill to exempt 911 calls from disclosure

2010 session, Carey Baker, Larry Cretul, Public records — posted by orlandosentinel on March, 9 2010 6:32 PM

TALLAHASSEE — A measure to exempt 911 recordings from public records laws may pit the House sponsor against the governor, a fellow Republican, as lawmakers debate whether they can protect privacy while maintaining oversight over emergency dispatcher performance.

With 911 tapes increasingly used by media outlets as prurient entertainment, calls are growing to restrict who has access to the recordings made during some of life’s most horrific moments.

Such concern has lead Rep. Rob Schenk, R-Spring Hill, to propose a measure that would shield audio recordings of the emergency calls to all but law enforcement officials. Citizens including the caller would be allowed to review the tapes only under a judge’s order.

On Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Crist told the News Service of Florida that he has yet to see the legislation, but generally said he supports keeping the records open for public scrutiny.

”I think we ought to keep it open,” Crist said. “You learn more about what happens with these 911 calls when it’s open. You have that kind of transparency where the truth is more available and easily attainable.”

The bill is scheduled to be heard Wednesday in the House Government Affairs Policy Council, its first committee stop.

“The need for emergency services bespeaks a very personal and often traumatizing event,” the bill reads. “To have the recordings made publicly available is an invasion of privacy that could result in trauma, sorrow, humiliation, or emotional injury to the person reporting the emergency or requiring emergency services, or to the immediate families of those persons.”

Law enforcement officials would have immediate access to the actual recordings. The public would not. Transcripts of the recordings would be available 60 days after the call was made. The requester would be billed the cost of transcription.

The measure has raised concerns from open records advocates who say recordings provide vital oversight of the agencies charged with responding to emergency situations. Others, however, say the tapes have too often become audio fodder in a reality-TV world.

“Quite frankly, I’m more concerned about the victims’ side of it and their ability to use 911,” Schenk said.

The issue has taken on added prominence following a highly publicized Charlotte County case in which a 911 operator sounded confused and rattled during a 10-minute called from Denise Amber Lee, a 21-year-old mother who was abducted and later found murdered. Her parents have since used her case to encourage more training for 911 staff.

And this week, the Palm Beach Post reported that Lee’s parents are against closing off access to the tapes for that reason. The Post also reported that the push for the measure has come from House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala.

Rep. Will Snyder, R-Stuart, and chairman of the Criminal & Civil Justice Policy Council, said he’s confident a balance can be struck on the issue. While disclosure is often used for prurient motives, oversight is needed to address mishandled 911 calls that Snyder said are few and far between.

“I think there is a lot of room for compromise going forward,” Snyder said

Monday, March 8, 2010

Apparently Governor Crist agrees

Originally published March 4, 2010

House to hear 911 bill: Measure would exempt tapes from open records laws

By Paul Flemming

A House member wants to block release of 911 tapes and exempt them as open records to protect victims from further trauma by public release.

The bill by Rep. Robert Schenck, a Spring Hill Republican, drew the swift opposition of open-government advocates. Schenck's bill will be heard next week in the House council he chairs.

"I just feel like victims need protection," said Rep. Robert Schenck, a Republican from Spring Hill. Identifying personal information contained in the calls is already blocked from release.

Gov. Charlie Crist said he favors keeping the tapes as public records.

"I think it's always better when you shed light on any situation, whether it's a 911 call, whether it's public expenditures, no matter what it might be, transparency is always the right call," Crist said.

Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, on Tuesday alerted her media-supported group about the bill. She labeled the proposal the Tiger Woods Relief Act, linking it to the release late last year of calls to 911 following Woods' November car crash outside of his Florida home.

"With all due respect, that is completely ridiculous," Schenck said.

The bill was scheduled for a hearing Wednesday, but discussion of other legislation delayed its consideration for a week.

"We're not going to discount their concerns" about victims, Petersen said. "Sometimes we have to look at the broader picture, too."

Recordings of 911 calls that are now open to the public would be closed by the bill if it became law. Instead, transcripts of the calls would be made available within 60 days.

Released 911 recordings have revealed negligence by emergency responders. Schenck said his proposal protects victim privacy while maintaining watchdog abilities.

"We're still keeping that intact with release of the transcript," Schenck said.

Petersen said transcripts wouldn't allow the same level of scrutiny. She cited a recent Tampa case in which a dispatcher was argumentative with a caller, did not follow procedure and the woman died.

"Access to these tapes is important. The transcript doesn't do us any good," Petersen said. "Intonation is as important as what's being said."

Schenck said he was contacted by individuals and victim advocates to ban the release of the tapes, though he said he couldn't name them off the top of his head.

In 2001, the Legislature banned the release of autopsy photos in the wake of race-car driver Dale Earnhardt's death in a wreck at the Daytona 500.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I missed this in November 2009/Chaos Theory

but it is important and relevant to what is going on in Tallahassee. my opinion first:

my opinion: I would like to say to Rick Jones, that my family and other families who have suffered through 9-1-1 tragedies, know the cost of training. It cost my daughter-in-law her life. And you can spend all your monies on the best technologies in the world, but if you do not have people who know how to use them appropriately those technologies are worthless. My daughter in law's life was priceless.

Chaos Theory
Nov 1, 2009 12:00 PM

By Glenn Bischoff (

Protocols and intuitive managers are key to reducing dispatcher pressure in 911 call centers.

Nathan Lee returned to his Florida home in the middle of the afternoon on Jan. 17, 2008. When he arrived, he found his two sons — a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old — together in the younger boy's crib. His wife and the boys' mother, Denise Amber Lee, was nowhere to be found.

She was found two days later in a shallow grave after being brutally raped. In the first frenetic hours after her abduction, mistakes allegedly were made by a 911 call-taker and dispatchers that hampered the search effort. Today, her family and friends are wondering why no national training and certification program exists for 911 telecommunicators, which they believe would help professionals in the sector better keep their wits in an intrinsically high-stress environment that becomes a crucible when things hit the fan.

Not on Alert

The first 911 call on the day of Denise Lee's abduction was placed by Nathan Lee. The 911 center that took that call and two others promptly issued BOLO (“Be On the LookOut for”) signals that allegedly were missed by the 911 center in an adjacent county. At some point during the ordeal, the assailant drove through that county with Denise Lee in tow.

Later in the afternoon, a witness called 911 to report that a child in the back seat of a green Camaro was pounding on the window and screaming hysterically. The “child” was Denise Lee, according to Peggy Lee, the victim's mother in law. According to Lee's family, that call was received by the same 911 center that allegedly missed the BOLOs issued after Nathan Lee's 911 calls. Somehow, the family alleges, no BOLO ever was issued for the call from the eyewitness nor were police cruisers dispatched, even though the eyewitness provided cross streets at several junctures until the car carrying Denise Lee peeled off onto another road.

Peggy Lee today serves as the community relations director for the Denise Amber Lee Foundation, which is lobbying for training and procedural reforms in the 911 sector. She has heard the recording from the eyewitness call and said the call-taker became flustered during the nine minutes she was on the line with the eyewitness. “That call-taker didn't know what to do — you could hear the chaos,” she said.

Denise Lee's father works in that county as a police detective. He said in an interview on a network-television newsmagazine that a fellow officer told him that the officer was certain the vehicle drove “right by him” but did not pursue, because “he never received the information.”

Local media reported that the county's sheriff defended the performance of the 911 center's call-takers and dispatchers that night but acknowledged that mistakes were made. Reportedly, two dispatchers were suspended as a result of this incident.

During the ordeal, Denise Lee somehow managed to get her hands on the assailant's wireless phone without him knowing and placed her own 911 call. She cleverly gave the call-taker vital information, such as the type of car, by speaking in a way that made her assailant think she was talking to him. After seven minutes the assailant caught on and the call ended. “That call was handled superbly,” Peggy Lee said. (Since this was quoted we have come to find out that the call was not handled "superbly" but it was handled well. The call taker was new, on few short months on the job, and has since had to move out of state because Denise's call effected her so greatly.)

However, Denise Lee's location couldn't be identified by the 911 system because she used a pre-paid wireless phone to place the call.

Unanswered Questions

BoldThe television newsmagazine posed this question: Could Denise Lee have been saved if the call-taker and dispatchers had kept their cool? It's a question that haunts her family.

Consequently, the Denise Amber Lee Foundation is lobbying for the creation of a national certification program for 911 call-takers and dispatchers. “We want to ensure that no other family has to endure the pure hell our family has experienced,” said Nathan Lee during this year's National Emergency Number Association (NENA) conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

Craig Whittington, NENA's newly elected president, who spent six years on the organization's educational committee before joining its executive board in 2007, is in favor of such a program. “You have to be certified to operate a tanning booth, but for 911 — the most critical link in emergency response — there is no certification,” Whittington said.

While a good idea, a national program likely would be difficult to create and maintain, said Rick Jones, NENA's director of operations. Funding would be at the heart of that difficulty. “When you address the need for training and certification, you indeed are going to escalate their costs,” he said.

Protocols and intuitive managers are key to reducing dispatcher pressure in 911 call centers.

Jones said that 911 call centers ideally would allocate 5% of their operating budgets for training but acknowledged that such a goal would be unrealistic for many, if not most, centers in the current economic environment. “Their training has been cut, and their practice time has been reduced for various reasons, [but] basically economic,” Jones said. “That starts to have a negative effect.”

The negative effect is three-fold. Rigorous ongoing training, core-competency standards and proficiency tests would increase the likelihood that call-takers and dispatchers act properly and — perhaps more important — instinctively. This, in turn, would make them more competent and confident, leading to reduced stress. And the less stressed that call-takers and dispatchers are, the less likely they are to lose their composure and make mistakes at crucial moments.

But such training, standards and testing largely are absent in the 911 world, a fact that Gordon Graham, the keynote speaker at NENA's conference, noted. Graham, a former California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer turned litigator and educator specializing in risk management, said, “Once you are hired, you will never have to take another test if you don't want to be promoted. The public deserves better.”

Grace Under Pressure

To illustrate the point, Graham spoke of US Airways Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who landed his airplane in New York City's Hudson River in January after several birds flew into the craft's engines, rendering them inoperable. According to Graham, Sullenberger said in an interview shortly after his heroic actions saved the lives of everyone aboard Flight 1549 that he tried, throughout his flying career, to make small deposits each day into his memory bank, knowing that one day he would “have to make a massive withdrawal.”

It was a sound strategy, Graham said, because doing so enabled Sullenberger to make instantaneous, life-and-death decisions on that fateful day. It's a lesson especially adaptable to the public-safety sector, whose personnel make such decisions on a daily basis.

“You will run into the unthinkable event someday, and you will have to make instantaneous decisions,” Graham said. “Whether you are prepared to do so is up to you.”

To prepare, Jones recommended that 911 emergency call centers at least implement protocols that every telecommunicator follows for every call the center receives. He suggested that centers adopt the protocols already established by the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Institute or PowerPhone (a provider of crisis communications training), and resist the temptation to create their own.

“That's dangerous, because a local agency doesn't have the expertise,” said Jones, who further cautioned that centers also should resist altering the national protocols, because “sometimes they over-modify them.”

Emergency call center managers also can play an important role in reducing the stress encountered by 911 call-takers and dispatchers, according to Steve Wisely, director of APCO's Communications Center and 911 services department. He said managers should be trained to have a calming effect on telecommunicators. “It's important that the supervisory leadership has training that will allow them to act in a calm manner, even when high-profile incidents are underway,” Wisely said. “The supervisors set the tone for the workers that are reporting to them.”

It's also important that supervisors recognize when a call-taker or dispatcher needs to decompress or a shoulder to lean on for a few minutes, Wisely said. “A support system needs to be in place where a person can get out of their seat and go to a quiet place to contemplate [an incident] or talk to somebody, if they're troubled by it,” he said.

This article originally appeared in Urgent Communications, a FIRE CHIEF sister publication.

PCB GAP 10-03

Reasons to vote against this bill:

Committee Bill-PCB GAP(Government Affairs Policy) 10-03-Introduced last week would restrict 911 calls from public records for a period of 60 days. And then no audio would be released. Just a redacted transcript. And the person requesting the redacted transcript would have to pay for the transcript.
• On the surface, you would assume we would be for this as it saves the victims families from hearing these painful calls over and over. However, these calls are an invaluable training opportunity for the industry. We are making an impact with raising public awareness of the issues and shortcomings of this industry because of the publicity of this tragedy.
• The media has been good to us and not airing the most painful parts of these calls
• Dateline and Primetime would not have shed a national spotlight on these issues if these calls are suppressed.
• If you really want people to die in vain-go ahead and support this bill but I would ask everyone to be outraged about this bill. It smells of nothing more than to shield the sheriffs departments from public scrutiny. How is the public supposed to feel comfortable that it’s local sheriff or police dept. is doing a good job if they are shielded from how calls are handled? An editorial in our local paper said it best last week: “Do you get more out of a song by hearing it or reading the lyrics on a piece of paper?”
• You never hear calls made on 9/11. You never hear calls made to 9-1-1 during the Virginia Tech Massacre or the Columbine High School Massacre. You do not hear the calls made during the Fort Hood tragedy. You do not hear the 9-1-1 calls made during the “Miracle on the Hudson” when the plane was going down and Sullenberger miraculously landed the plane. Why? Because the majority of the media is sensitive. Yes, there are those bad apples that you have in every industry that sensationalize and prey on other people’s tragedies. But they are the few. It is up to the public to protest to those media sources. Not for the State of Florida to pass a bad law.
• Our daughter in law’s tragedy has been taught in classes across the country. She has not died in vain because of these classes. Her story is taught on Day 1 to all new call takers and dispatchers in the entire state of California. Her story has been taught as far away as Samoa. If this bill had passed two years ago, this would not be possible.
• If this law had been past two years ago, we would be unaware of the tragedies and inefficiencies of 9-1-1 that occurred with Brian Wood of North Port, Jennifer Johnson of Tampa, and Olidia Kerr Day in Plantation. Lessons can be learned by all these tragedies. Sadly, it takes tragedies such as ours to bring about improvements to flawed systems.
• We empathize greatly with other victims’ families. We feel their pain having told our story hundreds of times. We know the pain and suffering of having to relive Denise’s tragedy. But this is not about Denise and it is not about the past. It is about future lives. It is about preventing future tragedies and keeping other families from having to endure the pain and suffering we have.
• Our local sheriff and other sheriffs are elected officials. How are concerned citizens to make informed and educated votes without transparency.
• There would be no quality assurance. Yes, some comm centers do their own quality assurance, but is not that the fox watching the henhouse?

Vote NO to PCB GAP 10-03 "Tiger Woods Relief Act"

from the Palm Beach Post:

House to discuss restricting release of 911 calls

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Dubbed the "Tiger Woods Relief Act" by an opponent, a bill that would dramatically limit public access to 911 emergency calls is scheduled for debate in the state House.

The measure (PCB GAP 1003) scheduled to be discussed Wednesday would prohibit the release of recorded 911 calls. It would allow access to call transcripts, but only after 60 days and at the expense of whoever requests those transcripts.

Supporters say the measure is necessary because some callers might be hesitant to seek assistance knowing that the tape is subject to public disclosure. Opponents say public access, among other things, ensures proper oversight of emergency service and police departments.

The 911 calls related to the Tiger Woods incident came within days of the event.

my comment:

My daughter-inlaw died because of the failure of our 9-1-1 system. I oppose this bill. There is nothing more heartbreaking than to listen to your daughter in law's last words as she is kidnapped and driven to her death. The call lasted over six minutes. A 9-1-1 call that could've saved her was mishandled. We SHOULD NO Thave to listen to these calls. But then the 9-1-1 centers should not have FAILED. If we are to improve the system, we need to be made aware of these calls. Vote NO to this bill.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Benefit of the doubt

okay, maybe some of these legislators did or do believe that this is in the best interests of victims families. I will do my best to give them that benefit of the doubt. But truly we need to look at the bigger picture.

The possibility of future loss of a life is a much more painful event than having to listen to a call of distress.

We never hear from calls made on 9/11. We never hear calls from the Virginia Tech Massacre or the Columbine High School Massacre. We never hear calls from the tragedies in England (London bombings) or Spain (more bombings). Why? Because the majority of the media realize how sensitive these calls are. It is the select few rotten apples in the media who prey on tragedies and sensationalize them.

The whole thing is tragic. Sad. And I pray to God (if there is one, and I have my doubts but if my the off chance there is one) I pray to God that what is best for public safety trumps all else. I pray other families understand.

Dear Denise, I just do not know what to do. If you see God, ask Him to guide us and continue to look over us. And as always, remind Him we need more people like you.

Please OPPOSE this bill PCB GAP 10-03

It is bad on so many fronts! Our sheriffs are elected officials. How are citizens to make informed, educated votes if we do not know what is going wrong? How is there to be any quality assurance? How are we to learn from past mistakes? How are trainers across the country supposed to train without access to these calls?

Proponents say the public can get access after 60 days! But! then only after it has been redacted and then it's a written transcript. Then we have to PAY for not only the call but transcription costs etc...

Proponents say it is to protect victims' family of having to hear their tragedies on the news. HAH! I find that hard to believe. I am a victim's family member and no matter how heartbreaking and horrific or how many times I have to listen to certain calls, public safety needs to come first and all this bill would do, would be to protect police chiefs' and sheriffs' butts. If this bill had passed 2 years ago we would never have heard about Brian Wood in North Port, Jennifer Johnson in Tampa, and Olidia Kerr Day in Plantation, Florida.

It is shady and it is disturbing. If they want a victim's family perspective why have they not ask us? We've been in Tallahassee and they could approach us at anytime. Instead we had to hear about it from a complete stranger from up in Tallahassee.

Oh this is BAD. Please oppose it.

Here is a copy of the bill:

A bill to be entitled

An act relating to a public record exemption for E911 recordings; amending s. 365.171, F.S.; expanding the public record exemption for certain identification information of a person reporting or requesting emergency services to include the recording of such report or request; authorizing the release of a transcript of such recording 60 days after the date of a request for emergency services or a report of an emergency; requiring the requestor to pay the actual cost of transcribing the recording; authorizing the release of such recording to a public safety agency; providing for retroactive application of the public record exemption; providing for future legislative review and repeal of the exemption under the Open Government Sunset Review Act; providing a statement of public necessity; providing an effective date.

Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:

Section 1. Subsection (12) of section 365.171, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
365.171 Emergency communications number E911 state plan.—
(a)1. Any recording of a request for emergency services or report of an emergency using an emergency communications E911 system held by a public agency or a public safety agency is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution.
2. Upon receipt of a public records request, a transcript of the confidential and exempt recording may be made available by a public agency or a public safety agency 60 days after the date of a request for emergency services or a report of an emergency using such system; however, Any record, recording, or information, or portions thereof, obtained by a public agency or a public safety agency for the purpose of providing services in an emergency and which reveals the name, address, telephone number, or personal information about, or information which may identify any person requesting emergency service or reporting an emergency by accessing an emergency communications E911 system shall be redacted from the transcript. The person requesting the transcript shall pay the actual cost of transcribing the recording, in addition to any other applicable costs provided under s. 119.07. is confidential and exempt from the provisions of s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution, except that
3. Such recording and record or information may be disclosed to a public safety agency. The exemption applies only to the name, address, telephone number or personal information about, or information which may identify any person requesting emergency services or reporting an emergency while such information is in the custody of the public agency or public safety agency providing emergency services.
4. This exemption is remedial in nature and it is the intent of the Legislature that the exemption be applied to requests for recordings received before, on, or after the effective date of this paragraph.
5. This paragraph is subject to the Open Government Sunset Review Act in accordance with s. 119.15 and shall stand repealed on October 2, 2015, unless reviewed and saved from repeal through reenactment by the Legislature.
(b) A telecommunications company or commercial mobile radio service provider shall not be liable for damages to any person resulting from or in connection with such telephone company's or commercial mobile radio service provider's provision of any lawful assistance to any investigative or law enforcement officer of the State of Florida or political subdivisions thereof, of the United States, or of any other state or political subdivision thereof, in connection with any lawful investigation or other law enforcement activity by such law enforcement officer unless the telecommunications company or commercial mobile radio service provider acted in a wanton and willful manner.
Section 2. The Legislature finds that it is a public necessity that any recording of a request for emergency services or report of an emergency using an emergency communications E911 system held by a public agency or a public safety agency be made confidential and exempt from public records requirements. The need for emergency services bespeaks a very personal and often traumatizing event. To have the recordings made publicly available is an invasion of privacy that could result in trauma, sorrow, humiliation, or emotional injury to the person reporting the emergency or requiring emergency services, or to the immediate family of those persons. Additionally, to have such recordings publicly available could jeopardize the health and safety of those needing emergency services in that people, other than emergency service providers, could actually gain access to the scene of the emergency and thereby impede the effective and efficient provision of emergency services. Furthermore, there are those persons, who, for personal, private gain or for business purposes, would seek to capitalize on individuals in their time of need. Those reporting or needing emergency services should not be subjected to this type of possible harassment. Furthermore, to allow such recording to become public could chill the reporting of emergency situations to the detriment of public health and safety. Finally, the public record exemption still provides for public oversight by authorizing the release, upon request, of a transcript of such recordings 60 days after the report while maintaining protections for the individuals involved in the report or receipt of emergency services.
Section 3. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An open email written by me yesterday

to the Florida House Committee hearing bill PCB GAP 10-03:

I understand a bill that will be heard in committee for the first time tomorrow that will affect the ability of the public to ensure the E911 system is held to appropriate standards. The committee bill, PCB GAP 10-03, would exempt from the Florida Sunshine Laws all recordings of E911 calls. The public would be limited to a redacted transcript of the call available only after 60 days. I have grave concerns that the public would not be able to review the work of the E911 telecommunicators if this bill passes, because they would not be subject to review by anyone other than their departments. It is important for you to know that we strongly oppose this bill. And believe it would detrimental to public safety for many reasons. Many of you know the details of our tragedy and you know we have been fighting for improvements to our 9-1-1 system. How are we to fight for improvements if we are denied access to this information? How are independent studies to be conducted if denied access to this information? How is the public expected to vote for improvements if they do not know all the facts and are only told feel good stories? How was I ever to understand what went wrong in Denise’s case if I did not have access to the calls? For more information go to .
While I appreciate and understand your concern for the impact listening to these phone calls in the media over and over again and how heartbreaking they are, I beg you to vote NO to this bill. I KNOW what it is like to relive a tragedy by hearing 9-1-1 calls on TV over and over again. But still believe that people need to know and they have a right to know how their public servants are performing. Consider this! Our sheriff is an elected official. How are voters to make educated informed votes if they are not informed?
Please do not pass this bill!
Thank you and thank you for your service,
Peggy Lee
Denise Amber Lee Foundation

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dear Denise, Good news and Bad news

Dear Denise,

I feel like banging my head against the wall. I am so frustrated and distraught. Thursday Senator Bennett's bill is going before a Senate Committee. Dad and I so WANT to be there to speak for it. But, I do not know how we are going to get there. UGH! It is so important and I just feel like crying with frustration.

There's another bill going before the House that as I understand it wants to suppress 9-1-1 calls to the public and the media! That is so wrong. As I understand it, listening to these calls on television is distressing to family members who have already experienced tragedy. I understand that. No one understands that better than our family. It means re-living the tragedy over and over. But, you cannot suppress this crucial information. You just cannot. Public Safety Officials need some kind of oversight otherwise these tragedies will continue to happen and they will continue to be swept under the carpet as they have been for years and that has got to stop. What's the saying? Foxes watching the hen house? In Charlotte County the Sheriff is an elected official. Therefore, he is a politician. So worse than foxes, you have politicians watching the hen house. Ugh!

I cannot tell you how distraught I am.

The good news, sweetie, is we have someone (a kind angel from England) working on your Wiki page. He is cleaning and polishing it. He has not gotten to the crime part yet or the trial but he has cleaned up your bio and is working on sources. The sources are necessary and it will finally be up to Wiki (or better "encyclopedia") standards!


That is so nice. So many people have helped us on this journey. It is heartwarming.

I miss you, sweetheart. And we are TRYING to do all we can.

I took the kids to school today and gave them two pebbles with angels on them. They were thrilled! Noah wants to put his with the other angels beside your grave near all the flowers. He was ecstatic and showed his teacher as soon as he walked in the door at school.

Love you, pumpkin.