The commission investigating the Parkland school shooting will discuss Broward County’s troubled emergency communications systems this week, as the county faces continued delays in replacing aging technology that failed the day of the massacre.
During the school shooting, frantic 911 callers found themselves put on hold and transferred because there was not a direct link to dispatchers for the Broward Sheriff’s Office, which patrolled Parkland. Meanwhile, the emergency radio system for law enforcement officers became overwhelmed and stopped functioning for many users, forcing commanders to communicate with hand signals.
“I think it’s a very serious issue in Broward County,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, chairman of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. “It’s a pressing issue that has to get resolved. We know it was a significant contributor to a less than effective law enforcement response.”
The commission will meet Tuesday and Wednesday, with an agenda covering a wide range of topics. Among these are the Broward school district’s controversial Promise Program, false crime statistics routinely provided by school districts and whether school districts are complying with new state laws on school safety.
911 system may have caused fatal delays in Parkland shooting »
The problems with the county’s systems had been well known for years. And prior to the school shooting, the county’s emergency communication system had become overwhelmed during the 2017 mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
But while the county has been in the midst of trying to upgrade the aging emergency communications system, the effort became bogged down, partly because Hollywood and Tamarac opposed the county’s chosen sites for radio towers.
Gualtieri said the commission needed to discuss the delays in dealing with the systems’ problems and why the county, the Sheriff’s Office and cities can’t get together to fix them.
“The communications issue is going to be the biggest thing,” he said.
Among the officials testifying on the issue will be police and fire chiefs, as well as Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry.
The Stoneman Douglas commission, which consists of public officials, law enforcement officers and parents of children killed in the attack, will meet Tuesday and Wednesday at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.