Cincinnati, OH - New digital emergency police and fire radios are still not working when they're needed most, and Motorola is being called out by Ohio police officers and their families, according to WLWT.
While police officers and firefighters say that the radios are putting their lives in danger, officials respond by saying that it's happening all over.
Wives and children from Cincinnati FOP Lodge 69 have started a campaign demanding Motorola fix the radios. They have posted photos that have "Hey Motorola! Fix your radios, our daddy's life depends on it," written on them.
Lauren DeFranco's husband is an 11-year veteran Cincinnati police officer. She said that he has never had a problem with his radio until the new digital radios came out in August, 2016.
There have been numerous reports of radios that have failed since then. She said, “It's putting my husband's life at risk. Not just my husband, but all the police officers. If we don't stand up and demand that something be done, eventually, some husband isn't going to come home.”
The problems began shortly after the old radios were replaced with new digital radios, according to Fox19. Radio transmissions were not understood completely, or were not broadcast at all. A total of 1500 new radios that cost more than $5 million were issued.
I talked with Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police president, Cincinnati PD Sergeant Dan Hils, on Tuesday. He confirmed the radio upgrade, and explained about the noise reduction software that came with it.
Sergeant Hils said that the software is programmed to cut out noise that it doesn't recognize as human. He described it as "digital not ready for primetime." He also said that the problem is not just limited to Cincinnati, that it occurs in other jurisdictions across the country, but he was limited as to what he could disclose.
Sergeant Hils said that the radios work the worst when officers are in stressful situations. He gave as one example the riverfront shooting in September, 2016, when there were about 250,000 people there for a fireworks event. He said that a fight broke out, and officers could barely communicate with each other.
He also gave a second example where there was a report of a suicidal subject on a high viaduct. He said officers were able to coax him off, and then the subject became combative with officers. The officers' voices changed due to 'excited utterances' and the radios didn't work as well as they could have.
He said that the main issues have to do with audibility, that voices and transmissions are not clear.
Sergeant Hils said that the issue is also affecting dispatchers, who used to be able to keep up and know where everyone was, and what was going on. Now they aren't able to do that, and it's hard on a dispatcher not to be able to keep up with those that he or she are responsible for.
What's worse, according to Sergeant Hils, is that it appears that a lot of the officers seem to be accepting the issue as the way it is.
He said that Motorola tried to fix the new radios after many officers complained but that problems still persist. In November, 2016, the CPD and Motorola agreed on specific items to be done after agreed-upon testing of the radios, in an effort to fix the problems. Obviously, whatever Motorola did hasn't worked.
Sergeant Hils told Fox 19 that the radios also weren't working properly on December 4, 2016, 'when a suspect punched an officer several times, took his taser, and deployed it on him several times in the neck during a drug investigation in Walnut Hills'. He said that the 'radios completely failed that day'.
In a statement to WLWT, Motorola said:
“Motorola Solutions and the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) continue to work closely together to ensure new remote speaker microphones (RSM) more closely emulate the audio capabilities and functionality that CPD has been used to for many years. CPD’s radios were deployed last summer, and a small number have already been reprogrammed to optimize audio and functionality capability with the RSMs. Motorola Solutions stands ready to quickly reprogram the remaining fleet of radios to work with the new RSMs as soon as CPD indicates its preferred timing to move forward with this software deployment.”
An officer's radio is his lifeline. When an officer is on the street, working his shift, there is no preferred timing to fixing the radios. Whether those radios work may mean the difference between life and death to an officer, a firefighter, or a citizen.