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Final audit: Tallahassee, Leon County embraced recommendations for 911 system


The emergency dispatch system for Tallahassee and Leon County has implemented most of the recommendations made to improve the performance of an agency beset by technical, personnel and operational problems since it was created three years ago.

 

Those problems prevented fire departments, law enforcement agencies and emergency medical teams to get to where they needed to be on time, resulting in several high-profile mistakes, which ultimately led to the director stepping down.

Those mistakes also prompted City Commissioner Scott Maddox to order an audit of the CDA and its contract with Motorola — just months before Leon County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Smith was killed in a shootout that could have been avoided if dispatchers had given him life-saving information about the scene.

The agency has improved greatly over the last several months.

“I was extremely concerned when I ordered the audit … just before Deputy Smith’s death … so I am pleased at the improvements and will remain vigilant to ensure our 911 system is as close to perfect as we could get it,” Maddox said. “That is one thing that literally lives depend on. We need to make sure our first responders safe, and people on other the end of the call are kept safe as well.”

Twenty of the 25 recommendations have been implemented or will be, the second and final follow-up audit on the Consolidated Dispatch Agency released Tuesday said

The report said that “the underlying issues as pertaining to the current systems and circumstances are considered to have been adequately addressed and resolved for those 20 recommendations.”

The agency has made significant progress taking action on the other five recommendations, the report said.

Since its formation in 2013 as a joint operation between the Tallahassee Police Department and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, the Consolidated Dispatch Agency has logged 11 full-system computer-aided dispatch (CAD) failures, several high-profile human errors, and a high employee turnover.

A Grand Jury in February 2015 blasted the CDA over not relaying information that could have prevented Smith from being shot to death, mishandling 911 calls during the Strozier Library shooting at Florida State, and for causing delays in responding to the shooting death of FSU law professor Dan Markel.

Recommendations included:

The CDA has worked with Motorola to resolve remaining technical and performance issues. Several actions were taken, including hiring a consultant to assess the system and recommend improvements, including financial penalties if performance standards are not met.

The city and county got a $369,354 credit from Motorola for previous performance issues. And it canceled its plans to implement a new Motorola records system for the police department and negotiated a deal to get additional equipment and services valued at $202,000.

After months of delays, the CAD system was upgraded in June “such that calls and dispatchers are now required to acknowledge the existence of critical premise hazards before they can process associated incidents within the system.”

And the agency has enhanced its quality assurance to determine critical hazard information.

Auditors made three additional recommendations:

— Track the impact of future performance issues, ensuring that any claims for service level credits due to system performance issues be prepared and submitted to Motorola in a timely manner.

— Make additional enhancements to the CDA process for conducting quality assurance reviews of law enforcement calls.

— In event triage application acquired for law enforcement is not implemented, CDA and responding agency involved should negotiate a reduction in licensing and maintenance costs.

“This should have been done right the first time,” Maddox said. “I hate we’re in a position to make corrections when lives are on the line.”

 

 

Contact Schweers at jschweers@tallahassee.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.