Should 911 calls be kept private?

8:52 PM, Feb 1, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- A debate rekindled in Hollywood is now making its way into the Tampa Bay area: should 911 calls be made public, or are they a violation of privacy?

"I think it's stupid for anyone, whether they are celebrated or not.  I don't think their 911 calls should be broadcast around the world," George Clooney told "The Insider," referring to the release of actress Demi Moore's 911 call.

There are many who agree, arguing an extremely personal moment like that should not be public record.

"I think that's 100% an invasion of privacy," said Jamelle Tucker of Tampa.

Two years ago the Florida Legislature tried to keep 911 calls private, in part so grieving families wouldn't have to relive the experience.

"I felt this 911 issue may be a little more far reaching than the public's right to know, and I say that because of the sensitivity of some of the calls," said Larry Cretul (R-Ocala), former Speaker of the House, who supported the bill.

But Tampa media law attorney Jim McGuire points out the 911 calls is made to a public agency, using public dollars.

"There have been a lot of instances in the past of 911 calls, where the dispatchers screw things up, where they don't do their job correctly.  Those are the things we, as members of the public, have a right to know," McGuire explained.

Others, though, fear some people may be hesitant to pick up the phone, if they know the whole world may end up hearing it.

"It might make me think twice," Tucker said.

There are a handful of states that limit what can be released in a 911 call.

The bill in the Florida House two years ago never made it out of committee and hasn't been brought back this year.

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