Collier County 911 improvement provides new defense against voter intimidation

The Collier County, Fla., 911 dispatch center. (Photo: Author)

Oct. 28, 2020 by David Silverberg

Collier County, Florida residents now have a new weapon against voter intimidation.

Yesterday, Oct. 27, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office announced that callers can send photos and videos to 911 dispatchers when they call.

This means that any instances of physical voter intimidation or suppression can be recorded on mobile devices and sent live to police as they are happening.

Collier County is the first county in Florida to have the capability. It is part of a national effort to upgrade the 911 system to give it new capabilities in line with advances in personal technology.

“We have always told our community, ‘See it, say it’,” Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk stated in a Facebook post announcing the new capability. “Now we can tell them, ‘See it, say it, send it.’ The more information first responders have, the quicker they can help, and a picture is worth 1,000 words.”

Rambosk, whose law enforcement background is in communications, has worked to keep Collier County policing on the cutting edge of technology. In 2014, Collier County was the first agency in Florida to enable 911 callers to send text messages to dispatchers.

“We are always looking at technology to identify ways we can enhance public safety here in Collier County,” Rambosk stated.

The new cloud-based technology enhances law enforcement and emergency management capabilities in a wide variety of circumstances, including disaster and crime response, missing person searches and accident assistance.

While there have been no reported instances of physical intimidation of voters in Collier County so far this year, there was an incident in Lee County on Oct. 22, when Trump supporters approached a polling place in trucks in a threatening manner.

(For a complete account of the incident and instructions on responding to voter intimidation incidents, see “How to respond to voter intimidation in Southwest Florida.”)

With the new capability, voters in Collier County can call 911 or the Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number (239) 252-9300 and send photos and/or videos to dispatchers, who will forward those videos and images to first responders.

Engineers and technologists have been trying to upgrade the 911 system since the advent of cell phones and wireless technology. Nationally, there is a program called Next Generation 911 to get new capabilities implemented across the country. The chief capability being sought is enabling dispatchers to determine a caller’s location from his or her cell phone but that has not been achieved yet. (For a 2016 slide presentation on Next Generation 911’s capabilities and challenges, see “Next Generation 911 and FirstNet: A Natural Partnership.”)

In Florida, funding for Next Generation 911 was supported by a fee added to every mobile phone bill. However, during his administration Gov. Rick Scott (R) determined that the fee was a tax and eliminated it, setting back state efforts to advance 911 capabilities.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s