Feb 23, 2024 - News

Parkland-inspired policing tool seeks to link victims, officers in real time

Image of a new policing tool.

A depiction of the CERA interface. Photo: Courtesy of CERA

Tony Montalto blames a botched police response for the 2018 Parkland school shooting that killed his daughter, Gina, and 16 others.

Why it matters: Six years later, his foundation is funding the rollout of a new policing tool that would connect victims to officers in real time and try to help police departments better handle mass shootings.

What's happening: Stand With Parkland, a school safety group led by victims' family members, announced this week that it would use federal grant funding to provide the new CERA software to the Biscayne Park Police Department.

  • Five other departments across Miami-Dade and Broward counties have pledged their commitment to deploy the new software as part of a $500,000 grant.
  • Hallandale Beach PD has been paying to use the software since 2023.

The big picture: Hesitance or delay by police in confronting shooters has been a flashpoint after some recent mass killings, including at Parkland and during the Uvalde school shooting in 2022.

How it works: CERA, a smartphone app developed by former Hallandale Beach police major Edward McGovern, who responded to the Parkland shooting, would allow victims or witnesses of a mass-casualty event to video call with police to get medical help or report a suspect's location.

  • Police commanders would also be able to use the app to direct officers around the scene, McGovern tells Axios.
  • CERA is meant to complement but not replace calling 911, though it can be useful in situations where witnesses cannot use their voice, Montalto says.

What they're saying: Montalto says he hopes seeing real-time videos and pictures from an active-shooter scene would prevent incidents where officers fail to act.

  • "It's going to be harder to do that if you see pictures of wounded kids," he says. "Hopefully that will spur the correct action."

What's next: The team is working on getting school systems and more police departments to adopt the technology to increase its reach.


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