The Longboat Key Police Department put out a call for dispatchers but didn’t get answers from the caliber of applicants it sought. So, Tina Gohl, a 14-year department employee who was promoted in October to dispatch supervisor, completed the six-month process the department needed to train a dispatcher.
“We didn’t want to lower the standard,” said Capt. Frank Rubino.
Recently, the department hired its first trainee: Amanda Goff, sister of Denise Amber Lee, whose kidnapping and murder in 2008 led her family to advocate for reforms to the 911 system after calls from Lee and others were mishandled.
Goff said her sister’s murder led her to pursue a criminal justice degree and to become a dispatcher.
When Goff completes her training, she will become a town dispatcher on Longboat Key.
It became mandatory in October 2012 for dispatchers statewide to obtain a 911 telecommunications certification through the Florida Department of Health as part of the Denise Amber Lee Act the Legislature unanimously passed in 2008. Dispatchers also must be recertified every two years.
But the town also seeks dispatchers who can handle calls that aren’t emergencies.
“Our dispatchers don’t hang up on non-emergency calls,” Gohl said.
The ability to train dispatchers isn’t a moneymaker for the town or the department. But departments looking for an alternative training site for dispatchers could reach out to Longboat Key to provide that training.
But Rubino is quick to point out the decision is saving the town money.
“If we would have hired a dispatcher that needed training, we would have had to pay them their wage while they trained somewhere else for 240 hours and paid for their meals as well,” Rubino said. “This way, they are learning on the job where they are going to work.”
The town is still investigating whether there’s a cost savings to eliminating the town’s dispatch service and using Manatee or Sarasota County services instead. Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming is hesitant that either county can provide the level of service the town’s residents currently receive.
“From the beginning to where this ends up, I’m going to act like our dispatch is going to be here forever because it has the level of service we want for the town,” Cumming said. “We’ll keep getting better all the time. I’m hoping the dispatch service never goes away out here.”
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