Breaking down Broward County’s troubled 911 system

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward Sheriff’s Office tells Local 10 News they currently have 390 dispatchers and are looking to hire 38 more as one county commissioner says that BSO’s vacancy rate has dropped from 18 percent to 9 percent after providing the agency millions in May to recruit and hire.

County commissioners are eagerly awaiting the findings of a report produced by public safety national experts they hired to evaluate the county’s dispatch issue.

One month prior to a heated exchange during a Broward County Commission meeting between Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony and the commission, commissioner Steven Geller said “The first duty of government is to protect its citizens.”

He said they were blindsided when news reports, not the sheriff, told them Broward like other communities across the country had a shortage of 911 dispatchers.

“The sheriff never told us that — obviously that caused an immediate uproar,” he said. The commission provided the sheriff with more than $4 for 911 communications staff recruitment and salary increases and put the sheriff on a short leash. “Instead of signing a five-year extension with the sheriff, we signed a one-year extension,” Geller said.

Broward Sheriff’s Office said since June they have hired 74 communications operators who then go through a 12-week academy and 5-to-6 weeks of on-the-job training.

They didn’t know exactly how many of the 74 have completed the weeks-long training and are currently on deck answering calls. BSO also says there are currently 38 vacancies and the human resources department is processing more than 1,600 active applications

The commission has hired public safety consulting firm Fitch and Associates to evaluate dispatch issues and make recommendations. That report is expected soon.

Tracy Jackson, the county’s regional public safety and emergency director, told Local 10 News Friday that the county administration is planning to brief the board.

“We gave the sheriff what he told us we needed, but in addition to that we hired national experts to tell us the best way to do this,” Geller said.

There are national standards for 911 dispatch staffing.


PSAP Staffing Guidelines Report - National Emergency Number Association

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About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."