Sheriff not there as Broward commissioners discuss 911 troubles

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – After the deadline for Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony to renew his agency’s contract with the county to run its troubled 911 system came and went, county officials say they’re still working with the sheriff and hopeful they can reach an agreement.

County commissioners and officials with Broward County Regional Communications discussed the issues during a workshop Tuesday afternoon.

Tony wasn’t present and no one was there on his behalf. That drew the ire of some commissioners, who have often found themselves at loggerheads with the sheriff over the system.

“Somebody should be here from the sheriff’s office, if not the sheriff himself,” District 3 Commissioner Michael Udine said. “I can’t imagine anything more important right now.”

The sheriff’s office runs 911 emergency dispatch and it is paid for by Broward County.

But in late December, the sheriff chose not to renew BSO’s operator agreement contract. In a letter, he stated his decision was based on the system falling short technologically, adding it was “materially deficient.”

Officials are hopeful they can come to an agreement where BSO runs operations, but the county government can continue to running technical aspects.

“One of the items was all or nothing and that is just not going to happen,” Broward County Mayor Lamar Fisher said. “If he wants to continue the call center process, we are willing to work with him in doing that, but the technology side is going to stay with the county.”

BSO and Broward County Regional Communications have been in the spotlight following staffing issues, vacant positions and unanswered 911 calls that, in some cases, resulted in death.

The focus Tuesday was finding solutions.

“I really think we need monthly data on how these phones are being answered,” District 2 Commissioner Mark D. Bogen said.

Officials continued to assure the public that the system remains in operation and 911 calls will continue to be answered.

Commissioners are hopeful they can come to a new agreement with BSO before their next meeting on Jan. 24. If not, there’s the possibility of hiring an outside company to run operations.

Local 10 News reached out to the Broward Sheriff’s Office to ask where the agency is with staffing and why Tony wasn’t present.

BSO responded though it did not say why the Sheriff was not present at the workshop.

The department currently has 26 communication operator vacancies, which represents a six percent vacancy rate for that job classification.

Below is a letter Sheriff Tony sent to the Broward County Administrator earlier this week:

About the Author:

Roy Ramos joined the Local 10 News team in 2018. Roy is a South Florida native who grew up in Florida City. He attended Christopher Columbus High School, Homestead Senior High School and graduated from St. Thomas University.