Little girl dead and NSB cop wouldn't call back overnight to confirm

NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Apparently, there is a new world order when it comes to dealing with public safety calls with the New Smyrna Beach cops. Unless you can get a "public information officer" to respond to your calls during "regular daytime hours," you're out of luck.

In my case, a 9-year-old girl died Saturday from burns she received in a shed fire Friday night at 304 Conrad Drive in New Smyrna Beach. I called the Volusia County Sheriff's dispatch just before midnight when I saw a story posted in the Daytona Beach News-Journal quoting two New Smyrna Beach officials Monday, saying the child had died. When I made my call to the Sheriff's Office, I was told by a dispatcher the patrol sergeant would not take my call and the dispatcher relayed a message from the NSB sergeant that I would have to call the "PIO" during normal business hours. Keep in mind: A little girl is dead. And I have to call the next day?

I have been covering police and courts in Volusia County since the mid-1990s as a breaking news cop reporter and I've never had a communication like this. Never in the four-plus years I've been covering news through this 24/7 Internet newspaper, have I ever been refused a call-back from the ranking New Smyrna Beach police patrol supervisor on duty during the overnights.

After twice demanding the patrol supervisor's name, I was told "Riggle." That's Sgt. Shane Riggle, whom I have spoken to many times, as I have with Sgt. Valerie Joyce, Sgt. Christopher Roos and others. If the policy is to call the public information officer in the morning, that's news to me. The cops have always returned my calls even if it was to explain that they didn't have anything confirmed or weren't allowed to release any information. I have not received such an edict from Chief Ron Pagano or any other administrator as to being directed to a PIO the next day.

In a 21st-century digital world, not everyone in the media operates on the same work schedule. Suffice to say I am not happy about the situation with getting out the news about this little girl's death. But if the news can only be reported from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., then it really is a new world order. I hope the public is outraged as I am.

By the way, I called the Sheriff's dispatch a second time and he read off his computer all he had available to him: Basically that a fire was reported 6 p.m. (Friday) July 27 at 304 Conrad Drive and two children were transported to Arnold Palmer in Orlando. He said the Sheriff's Office had no other information -- that further details would have to come from the New Smyrna Beach police, which is why I was calling in the first place. The sheriff's dispatch supervisor said he sent a message to the patrol sergeant asking him to call me. No such call has been returned by that patrol sergeant. Unbelievable. A child is dead. And he couldn't be bothered to even return a call as a professional courtesy.

Ironically, it was the New Smyrna Beach Fire Department "PIO" that sent an e-mail to the media that two young children had burned in a fire. When I asked about the extent of their injuries Friday night, he said couldn't tell me because of HIPPA laws. Then I read where one of the children has died.

And how can you have a story printed that a child has died and not have a name? 

 

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet newspaper serving the Daytona Beach-New Smyrna Beach / Sanford-Orlando metropolitan region via HeadlineSurfer.com, launched in 2008, as Florida's first around-the-clock online newspaper. Frederick is among Florida's most experienced reporters specializing in breaking news & investigative reporting and winner of multiple state, regional & national journalism awards in Florida, New York, Massachusetts & Connecticut. The first of his three books, "Creepy Ass Cracker" (842 pages, Xlibris), hits bookstores this Fall. 
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