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Drag Maryland 911 into the 21st century

Authorities released audio Thursday of 911 calls received on the afternoon of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Thank you for your concern about upgrading Maryland’s 911 system (“Md.'s outdated 911,” March 4). As I tell my colleagues, “When 911 fails, people die.” That’s how three Marylanders in my district have passed away and why I have introduced a package of five bills to improve this fundamental, life-saving government service.

On the subject of the Maryland Public Information Act and the release of 911 calls, we share more common ground than you intimated. Your editorial implied that SB 1054 would shield all 911 calls from being released, using a call from a social worker concerned about the Parkland school shooter as an example. That is not the case! I share your commitment to transparency which is why I worked with the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association and others to narrow this bill and allay their concerns.

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This bill anticipates a “Next Generation 911” world, where “gory or gruesome” images or videos are sent to our 911 centers. We would not want to see them on YouTube or the evening news.

I appreciate your endorsement of SB 1051, which would close the loophole that results in insufficient funding for our local 911 centers. Due to large trunk lines and “Friends and Family” plans, many phone bills now represent multiple phone numbers, but each bill still includes only a dollar for all of those employees or family members to have access to 911. While revenues are flat or decreasing, demand is dramatically increasing. We must update our approach.

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The 911 system is changing. I will continue to work to plan for those changes and appreciate your support.

Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan, Annapolis

The writer, a Democrat, represents District 17, Gaithersburg and Rockville, in the Maryland Senate.

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