FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - There are serious concerns over the 911 system in one South Florida county, but it’s not what one sheriff wanted to hear.
A tense exchange between Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony and Commissioner Mark Bogen took place Tuesday afternoon over how to fix the regional communication center, also known to most as 911.
“Commissioner, you gave me 15 questions. Do you want me to start answering them now?” said Tony.
“No, you’re gonna wait until I’m done, and then you’re gonna be respectful,” responded Bogen.
“I’ll be respectful when you’re respectful. You’re also gonna be respectful,” said Tony.
“Same [expletive] every year,” said Bogen.
Tony and Bogen are at odds over how to fix the 911 system, which the Sheriff’s Office acknowledges is understaffed and dispatchers are overworked, with some calls going unanswered.
“No one in this room broke it, but it’s broken, the system,” said Broward County Mayor Michael Udine.
“How many doors have you kicked down?” said Tony to Bogen. “How many lives have you saved? How many times have you had to extract somebody from a burning building or put your ass on the line when someone is getting shot at?”
When 911 doesn’t work, tragedy can strike. For a Deerfield Beach family, it was when baby Keishawn stopped breathing during a nap. They called 911. Unfortunately, the baby did not survive.
“All it’s doing is ringing, ringing, ringing. I had like over five people calling the police at one time,” said Keishawn’s father, also named Keishawn.
In Hollywood, Judith Garwood’s home burned to the ground when she couldn’t get help on the phone.
“Oh, my God, what is going on here? 911 doesn’t answer?” said Garwood.
The sheriff said they need to hire more dispatchers and pay them more. He wants $11 million for salary increases, $314,000 for recruitment and $17 million more to bring them all under one roof.
Bogen said more money is a mistake.
“I think I can solve your problem,” said Bogen to Tony. “I have an ego. I can solve your problem in six months.”
“Well, the people can vote you in office and serve as sheriff, and then you can answer the problem,” said Tony.
For the family who lost a baby and the woman who lost her home, it’s too late.
Tony said while they try to sort it out, he asks not to judge the entire system on just a few calls.
“One call where it’s not handled up to the standards that we would like, maybe it’s not fast enough, maybe there’s dropped calls, and we’re having a repeat to make these calls, does not diminish the fact that we answer 2.6 million calls for service,” said Tony.
“When you keep having problems year, after year, after year, I don’t care what business you have, you need to look at maybe changing management,” said Bogen. “The sheriff doesn’t like to be criticized. He takes it personally, but this is business.”
For now, the commission is going to consider putting nearly $5 million toward salaries and hiring as a stopgap, but they acknowledge more needs to happen.
“I don’t want to see any finger pointing. I don’t want to see any, you know, passing the buck. This needs to be done, and it needs to be done correctly,” said Udine.
In their next meeting, two weeks from now, they will consider that $4.75 million to try to retain as well as hire new dispatchers. After that, commissioners said they know they have to look for a long-term solution.
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