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Broward 911: Sheriff's Office, County partnership is back on the table

911 calls
Carline Jean
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony appears in front of the County Commission on May 10, 2022, to discuss his proposed fixes to the 911 call center.

Just days after Broward commissioners announced they had terminated the agreement for the sheriff's office to staff the county's emergency communication system, the rocky partnership appears to be back on.

Last month the Broward Sheriff's Office refused to sign a contract extension — instead giving county commissioners an ultimatum over technology upgrades. It meant that on Jan. 1 the agreement expired, with the county promptly announcing they would transition to a different organization.

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But at a workshop meeting on Tuesday, both sides said they wanted to continue the working relationship and discussed how to move forward from the deadlock.

While some commissioners voiced their disappointment that Sheriff Gregory Tony was not at the meeting, the majority of them still want to work with him.

WLRN sought comment from the BSO about his absence but has not received a response.

Ahead of the meeting, Sheriff Tony sent a letter to the commission on Monday stating his desire to continue staffing the system.

"The expectation is that the County and BSO will come to an understanding on operational issues and that these mutually agreed upon issues can be formalized into a new agreement for the continued call-taking/dispatch operation by BSO," the letter stated.

The sherif has criticized the county for a lack of urgency in upgrading technology for the 911 system.

The county owns the system's infrastructure and technology, while the sheriff manages 449 full time employees that operate the county's emergency communication system. About 20 projects to improve the system are ongoing, county administration said during Tuesday's meeting.

911 commission workshop
Carline Jean
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Broward County Mayor Lamar P. Fisher, Commissioner Michael Udine and Commissioner Steve Geller during a Broward County workshop meeting at the County Governmental Center in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, to determine the future of 911 emergence system in the county.

The sheriff has argued for months that he should be given control of the entire system, something Commissioner Michael Udine says won't happen.

"There's not the votes to transfer the technology to the sheriff... And I think that that needs to be expressed to the sheriff. Either he's going to be the operational provider of this system or we're going to do it in the county," Udine said Tuesday.

Last month Sheriff Tony refused to sign the contract extension that would have maintained his position managing the 911 operator staff.

He wrote that the "system's current technology and certain technological components (all County's obligations) fall short." He told the county he would only sign if they would guarantee technology upgrades in the first three months of the year.

The county said the demand was unrealistic. The contract expired New Year's Day, when the county announced they would look for other options and transition the sheriff out of the system.

After Tuesday's meeting, both parties walked back that idea and are trying to collaborate on a new set of expectations and eventually a new contract.

"The letter... from the sheriff last night, I think sets a tone of cooperation, a willingness of collaboration. And so I was encouraged also to see that letter," said County Administrator Monica Cepero.

Gerard Albert III is back in Broward, where he grew up, after reporting on crime and public safety in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and West Palm Beach. Albert is a former WLRN intern who graduated from Florida International University.