DATE: October 11, 2012
CONTACT: Alphonso Jefferson
Assistant to Broward County Administrator
For over a year, elected officials including County and City Commissioners and Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) representatives, public safety officials and city managers have been meeting regularly to discuss the need for a regional communications system as one of the many steps in fulfilling a 2002 voter-approved amendment to Broward County’s charter. The amendment provides for a communications system infrastructure to facilitate “closest unit response” to an emergency.
The process culminated in the designation of a community board, made up of city managers and representatives of the police and fire chiefs' associations, and charged the board with implementing the regional communications system. One of the community board's recommendations was for Broward County to manage the system.
Broward County currently manages a major technology department, and has identified synergies between public safety and other communications infrastructure that have the potential to save millions of dollars that could offset a planned $50 million upgrade and expansion of the regional communications system.
On September 27, 2012, the Broward County Commission approved the return of public safety communications from BSO, where it had been housed since 2004, to County operations, effective October 1, 2012.
Importantly, the 21 communications professionals who administer the public safety communications system are experts who have fulfilled that role for many years. Their functions have not changed, nor has the way they deliver services. BSO has never stopped accessing primary components of the system.
Ten days have passed since the transfer occurred without any adverse impacts to public safety or public safety communications. BSO has nonetheless filed a lawsuit alleging an emergency situation - one that it has created for itself, according to County officials.
In responding to news of the lawsuit, County Administrator Bertha Henry reassured residents, including those in municipalities that receive services from BSO, that the County will in no way impact public safety as a result of the pending legal action. Further, she stated that only the reporting structure of the communications team has changed. “The exact same staff is managing the exact same equipment,” said Henry.
“Clearly, our hope was for a smooth transition of services, and we will continue to work toward that end,” said Henry. “Throughout the process, we will never place the public safety of our residents or our community in jeopardy.”