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Access to 911 Recordings in Jeopardy

March 3rd, 2010 by flanews

Access to recordings of 911 phone calls is being challenged by state lawmakers. Legislation to ban the public from hearing the calls has been filed. As Whitney Ray tells us, the debate began shortly after the 911 recording of a neighbors report of the Tiger Woods car crash was released.

Just days after Tiger Woods wrecked his SUV a concerned neighbors phone call to 911 was released to the media.

Some members of the Florida legislature say emergency calls should be kept private to protect victims.

To relive that over and over again either through print or watching it on TV, or whatever reason is very traumatic and I feel like the victims need the protection of that, said Representative Robert Schenck.

Opponents of the ban say the access is necessary.

Its a difficult balance between the freedom of the press and the freedom of privacy for someone who calls 911, but overall I think in America we need to make that balance towards the freedom of the press, said Representative Scott Randolph.

The recordings of a murdered South Florida woman whose calls were ignored have raised alarms about a lack of training for some dispatchers. Had the calls been private its questionable misconduct would have come to light.

The legislation would still allow the public to have access to some of the information. They can buy a transcript of the conversion two months after it occurred.

The First Amendment Foundations Barbara Peterson says thats not good enough.

If we have to wait 60 days in order to get it, that is a tremendous amount of time and can really cause a lot of harm I think in the intervening two months, said Peterson.

Less than 2 percent of all 911 calls are requested by the public. A House Committee delayed a vote on the legislation this morning a sign that opponents of the measure may be gaining ground.

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