FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Tuesday was supposed to be just a presentation by Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony, speaking about the issues BSO is currently having with staffing at the 911 call centers.
At one point, things got a bit heated between the sheriff and one of the commissioners.
Tony started off by presenting to the commissioners, explaining that about 20 percent of their communications staff positions are unfilled.
“One of the things we were challenged both from the commission members in this commission, as well as myself, was to come back with a plan that makes sense to become more competitive, to become the premier communications dispatch system in the tri-county area,” Tony said.
He suggested salary increases across the board, as well as hiring incentives and even a new 911 call center inside of BSO headquarters, as ways of filling the gap.
The changes would cost millions of dollars, and, at one point, Commissioner Mark Bogen suggested that he felt throwing more money at the problem wouldn’t solve anything.
“When you have a business with constant problems, if you don’t make changes to your management to figure it out, if you just throw money at it, I think it’s a huge mistake,” Bogen said.
Bogen then suggested that Tony and BSO might not be the right ones to run the county’s 911 communications, saying the county should instead look for a new person with more experience.
Bogen also said he spoke with several former employees who told him it was a hostile work environment, which Tony took as a personal attack, and that’s when things got heated.
“You gave me 15 questions. You want me to start answering them now?” Tony asked.
“No, you’re going to wait until I’m done and you’re going to be respectful,” Bogen responded.
“I’ll be respectful, but you’re also going to be respectful!” Tony responded.
The exchange continued to get heated.
“Same (expletive) every year. This is the most important thing for our public, is to answer a phone!” Bogen said.
“How many times have you have to extract someone from a burning building or put your (expletive) on the line when someone was getting shot at? You are out of line!” Tony responded.
Things did calm down after that, when Mayor Michael Udine ended the back and forth and moved on to other commissioners who asked the sheriff questions, and things remained civil.
There were also several community members who spoke out against giving the Sheriff’s Office more money, like Marq Mitchell, who said they should instead find ways to reduce 911 call volume.
“Send calls that aren’t related to threats to public safety to external agencies who are already equipped with the training, as well as the personnel necessary to give people in our county an answer when they need it the most,” Mitchell said.
The commission voted to direct the county attorney to draft a plan that would give $4.7 million to BSO for 911 operator raises, retention and recruitment prior to the next fiscal year in October.
A final vote will take place at a later date.