Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bill would ban release of 911 calls

A bill set for a hearing in Tallahassee on Wednesday morning would pull the shades on one of the ways the public and media in Florida can hold law enforcement and other public safety agencies accountable for how they protect the public.

The measure - dubbed by open-government advocates as the "Tiger Woods Relief Act," even though the sponsor says it has nothing to do with the wayward golfer whose "transgressions" became public after he crashed his SUV outside his Orlando home - would block the release of audio recordings of 911 calls, and only a written transcript could be released 60 days after the call.

The recordings could be released "by court order upon a showing of good cause."

The sponsor, Rep. Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill, says he wants to protect the victims of crimes, fires, accidents, etc., but that belies the fact that under current law, the release of any identifying information contained in a 911 call - name, address, etc. - is already exempt from disclosure.

Another purpose, according to language in the bill, would be to ensure that people aren't afraid to call 911 when they witness a crime or their house catches fire because of the possibility that the call would be aired on the nightly news or a newspaper Web site.

As if that "chilling effect" would stop a rational person from doing whatever they can to protect their property and their life.

Not written in the bill is how a ban on releasing 911 recordings might protect police officers, firefighters and paramedics whose mistakes and bad decisions could pose a real danger to the public.

The House Governmental Affairs Committee is scheduled to consider the bill at its meeting Wednesday, starting at 8 a.m.

You can read the latest version of the bill, here.

--- Marc R. Masferrer

1 comment:

  1. Just another way in which 'government' wants to have an avenue in which to hide their mistakes and blunders - especially in the area of irresponsible dispatching of 'emergency calls'. As far as governmental actions are concerned, government would like to see their actions hidden as much as possible. //