A controversial measure making 911 call tapes secret passed its first test this morning over the objections of Democrats and civil rights advocates.
The measure (PCB GAP 10-3) is the brainchild of House Speaker Larry Cretul and appears on the fast-track in his chamber although Senate support appears limited.
The purpose of the bill is to spare victims of tragedies from reliving their traumas when frantic 911 calls are repeatedly broadcast on television or blogs, argued bill sponsor Rep. Rob Schenk, chairman of the Govermental Affairs Policy Committee that passed the bill with an 8-5 vote this morning.
The tapes would only be available to those who make the calls but others would have to go to court to get them. Transcripts of the tapes would be available after 60 days.
But Rep. Rick Kriseman, a St. Petersburg Democrat, objected that the transcripts are not available to the victims of the 911 calls unless they made the calls themselves.
Kriseman, a lawyer, also said automobile manufacturer Toyota may not have responded to quickly to runaway cars without the 911 tapes.
“Had it not been for the recording, the pressure that’s now being put on Toyota would not have happened. Because it was through that recording that we learned about the problem with the gas pedals and all the other associated problems. That’s a protection that we’re losing by putting this in place,” Kriseman said.
But Schenk argued that the bill is necessary to protect victims.
“It’s not about Tiger Woods and what did or did not happen on Thanksgiving with him. It’s not about any other celebrity. It is simply about when someone makes a 911 call they are generally in one of the most vulnerable states they will ever be in in their life. There is a tragedy. There is an emergency. There is something traumatic happening at that very moment. I’ll tell you just from personal experience I’ve had to make a 911 call. The events that happened during that time I will never forget. Quite frankly, I would not want to relieve that over and over again watching on TV or reading about it in the media,” Schenk said.
“That’s what this bill is about. It’s not about any celebrity. It’s not about any sensational news story you read about. It is purely about taking into consideration victims who make a 911 call, guarding them from the fact that reliving that event over and over again that was already traumatic to them.”
Schenk later refused to elaborate on the nature of his 911 call.