MSD commission worries Broward ‘at risk of another tragedy’

Concerns raised about communication system that failed during Parkland school shooting

County leaders were grilled at a meeting Tuesday over a communication system that failed during the Parkland mass shooting and the quality of cameras in district schools.

SUNRISE, Fla. – Fed up and frustrated, the MSD commission grilled Broward County officials Tuesday over a communication system they believe is not where it should be.

“How many more people have to die before you adults get in a room and fix this?” asked Commissioner Rick Swearingen of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Flaws in the system came to light when first responders had trouble communicating over radios during the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The MSD Commission was established during the state’s 2018 legislative session to identify and address issues raised in the tragedy.

”This community is at risk of another tragedy,” said Ryan Petty, a MSD Commission member who lost his 14-year-old daughter Alaina in the shooting. “One of the reasons I moved from Broward County: I’ve lost a loved one here, and I’m not gonna lose another one. And the same attitude I saw two years ago, this inability to find common ground and to find a way to solve this, persists today. And it’s infuriating. Broward doesn’t have a technology inoperability problem. It has a leadership problem.”

Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry seemed to get the brunt of the tough questions.

“We’re just going to continue to try and build the best system,” Henry told the commission, later telling Local 10 News that there have been improvements in the communication system.

“It’s not the same as it was under the prior situation,” she said.

Henry told the commission that Broward County has now a contract in place to build its 16th communications tower at West Lake Park in Hollywood.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony told the commission that since 2019 he’s been trying to update hundreds of camera GPS systems at schools across the county.

“It’s unacceptable,” Tony said.

Broward’s new interim public schools superintendent Vickie Cartwright said that issue was brought to her attention Friday and that “it is something that we are already starting to address.”

Cartwright said that of the 15,000 cameras they have in the school district, about 250 are in the process of being updated.

About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.