Police officials demand answers on radio outage

July 23, 2008 4:06:10 PM PDT
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey wants answers to what caused the city's troubled police radio dispatch system to fail again. Ramsey says the outage affected several sections of the police bands.

He says according to a protocol used in previous outages, officers went back to headquarters and paired up with other officers for street patrols.

Ramsey says people from Motorola, the radio system's manufacturer, are working on the problems but the current situation is "unacceptable."

Ramsey says he shares the frustrations of Fraternal Order of Police president John McNesby, who criticized the city on Tuesday for putting lives of police officers and the public at risk.

All across town today, police patrol cars were double-staffed. Two officers per unit for their own safety.

The police union says this was the 14th radio breakdown of its type since the Motorola system was purchased and installed six years ago at a cost of nearly $60 million.

City officials say Motorola engineers were working feverishly at the transmission tower and other key sites, trying to find out exactly what caused not only the primary system to go down for nearly 53 minutes, but two back up systems as well.

A modified backup system did eventually kick in.

Ironically the shutdown occurred at 9:37 p.m., one minute after police commissioner Ramsey used his radio to call for backup as he encountered at large street brawl at Cumberland at Cleveland on the city's north side.

City Hall says its has put Motorola on notice it has to clean this mess up right away, or face a lawsuit demanding the company pay for a replacement system.

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