911 call system under scrutiny

More than a year after Broward instituted its county-wide 911 dispatch system in October of 2014, problems persist.

Last month, at a Wilton Manors Commission meeting, Chief Paul O'Connell apologized for his department not responding quickly to a call from a resident.

The resident, who asked not to be named, lives behind Richardson Park and called about a man who was watching him and his partner through their fence. The man eventually left without causing harm. “They’re just concerned about why the police never showed up to their home,” said Mayor Gary Resnick.

Resnick said the man matches the description of someone seen checking front doors in the same neighborhood. “It could have been worse. When something like that occurs, police need to be able to respond,” Resnick said. The mayor brought up the issue at the meeting. “I don’t normally raise resident issues with our staff at commission meetings but this involves public safety.”

O’Connell said the delay was caused by two officers busy with another call and the third was in the middle of a shift change. O’Connell said police were unable to respond on time because they were busy dealing with another call. “We did respond but we responded too late. We could have reached out to Fort Lauderdale or Oakland Park [Wilton Manors has mutual aid agreements with both cities] but we didn’t.”

O’Connell also cited the county dispatch system as part of the problem.

“The phone number we received from dispatch was the wrong number so we had no way of contacting him. Dispatch told us he did not want to be contacted.”

As for not checking on the issue sooner after it occurred, “All that being said, I should have followed-up with this guy myself. If the phone number was wrong I could basically walk across the street and knock on his front door. I should have done that and I didn’t. My apologies to the commission.”

“There’s a lot of incidents where dispatch has gotten things wrong,” Resnick said. “Believe me, it’s not just Wilton Manors. It’s county-wide,” responded O’Connell.

Also critical of the county system is County Commissioner Chip LaMarca. “I’m at a loss as to why we didn’t go out and fund the best operating system in the county, implement those best practices. We’re still having issues. I’m hoping it will come into line but I’m not expecting that,” LaMarca said.

Rick Carpani, the former director of Broward’s Office of Regional Communications and Technology who resigned Nov. 13, said the main issues deal mainly with the operations as opposed to technology. Carpani said he resigned to take a job in the private sector.

“BSO is struggling with addressing [correctly identifying the right address in the right city].

They’re not used to taking calls county-wide,” he said. “I don’t think the operators realized that how big a problem that was going to be.”

O’Connell, president of the Broward County Chiefs of Police Association, recently sent a letter to the county to discuss concerns about the system.