OFFICERS CONCERNED THAT RADIO PROBLEMS DISMISSED
LAPD Needs to Pinpoint Causes of Radio Problems through Work Group
Los Angeles (August 1, 2001) – Although the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) is pleased to see that more attention is being paid to the malfunctioning LAPD digital radios, we are concerned that the issue is today being dismissed by department management as simply a problem stemming from lack of training.
Although training the officers in how to properly use the equipment may be an element contributing to their malfunctions, this does not explain why the radios frequently experience dead spots where transmissions are unintelligible, digital delays and periods of silence when two officers attempt to speak at once. LAPD management acknowledged this yesterday, but today is placing the bulk of the blame for the radio problems on officer misuse due to lack of training.
“As we did in our letter to Chief Parks on Friday, we are once again calling on the department to form a work group with representatives from the LAPD, Communications Division, Motorola, the LAPPL, the Police Commission and various city offices to find both temporary and permanent solutions to the malfunctioning radios,” said LAPPL Vice President Bob Baker. “It is wrong to blame the officers for the problems with the radios. If, as the department says, the officers do not have the proper training to operate the radios, then why isn’t the department providing it immediately?
“Our officers are at risk out on the streets with these radios, and when they can’t perform their jobs properly or safely, the greater public is also at risk,” added Baker.
While LAPD management says there is no danger to the public or officers, the LAPPL points to several examples of the severe consequences that can result from various types of malfunctioning police radios in its call to find a solution to this problem immediately:
· Currently at the LAPD, one officer resorted to calling 911 for backup when his radio failed, while many other officers have taken to carrying their cell phones with them while on patrol in order to ensure a line of communication in the event that their radios go out.
· Recently, a SWAT team searched for a suspect in an Irvine office building, but could not radio their fellow officers outside to alert them that the team was coming through the door.
· In Atlanta, on Oct. 12, 1997, two patrol officers responded to a domestic dispute and confronted the suspect. The suspect quickly became aggressive and Officer Patricia Cocciolone says she tried to radio for help, but her radio didn’t work. The man emerged from the home with an assault rifle and Cocciolone suffered wounds to her head, hip and hand. Her partner, Officer John Sowa, was killed.
· In Kansas City, Missouri, Detective Robert Blehm and his partner, Derek McCollum, ran after a drug dealer at four in the morning on Sept. 18, 1996. They got dead air when they tried to call for backup on their new radios. The suspect shot them both – as Blehm lay bleeding with a shattered right leg, he tried to call for help, but got nothing. McCollum, with a chest wound, was forced to stumble up the street until he could find a clear signal and call for help.
· In Anne Arundel County, Maryland, last year, an officer stopped a speeding car and could not radio dispatch to do a background check. As he wrote out a ticket, another officer stopped to warn him that the driver he was citing was a shooting suspect.
Source for examples: “Cell phones drowning out police radios,” USA Today, June 19, 2001, and “Once trusty, police radios are now unreliable in a pinch,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 10, 2001.
About the LAPPL
Formed in 1922, the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) represents the more than 9,000 dedicated and professional sworn members of the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPPL serves to advance the interests of LAPD officers through legislative and legal advocacy, political action and education. The LAPPL can be found on the Web at www.LAPD.com