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Last updateThu, 17 Apr 2014 12am

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Prior problems with High Springs dispatch

LTE2012  Since Mayor Dean Davis refused to allow citizen comments at the Commission Meeting at City Hall on May 22, 2012, I have no recourse to express serious concerns except to write this letter to the editor.

I want to sincerely apologize to the city commissioners and to the citizens who attended the Town Hall Meeting at the Civic Center for quoting the wrong Florida State Statute (F.S.S.) 406. I am sorry.

The correct F.S.S. number is 401.465. This statute stipulates the training that is required for one to become a 911 Public Safety Telecommunication Operator. It also designates the Department of Health to set guidelines for training in accordance with the law.

After listening to the tapes of the shooting incident that occurred at the school, I realize that the dispatcher could not get information that the caller did not have.  However, not once did I hear Sgt. Harper advised that she was sending back up to him, even though he requested it. Officers have full knowledge that a Resource Officer is at the school, but what Sgt. Harper was requesting was additional (major) back up. He asked for it over the radio.

The most valuable information was the name of the suspect. The High Springs Police Department (HSPD) has had previous calls involving this person, and officers are familiar with him. The fact that the dispatcher knew the suspects name did not help the officer responding. His name was said, but it was never transmitted over the radio to the officer.

I was in contact with Sgt. Harper shortly after the shooting incident, and he told me that he did not know the suspect’s name and backup was never called for him.

With no backup being called for this incident, it is clear to me that the directives that were in place were not followed, just as they were not followed when I was assaulted April 5, 2009.  At one time the dispatcher said she needed to call someone, as if she did not know who to call. I understand that the Alachua County Combined Communication Center (CCC) took over and handled the call. The handling of this call clearly shows that training is necessary for anyone who wishes to dispatch from this point forward. It is necessary for the safety of the officers and the citizens of the community.

At the Town Hall Meeting held at the Civic Center, the dispatcher who handled the incident at the school was present. She said Sgt. Harper did know who the suspect was, and added that Steve (then Officer Steve Holley, now Chief Steve Holley) even knew who it was. This raises in my mind a question.  Knowing that Sgt. Harper was the only officer on duty, and the nature of the call, (man at the school with a gun), why didn’t he respond to back up his fellow officer?

I appreciate having this opportunity to express my concerns. Thank you.

Martha Hines, Ret. Sgt.

High Springs Police Department