Cincinnati Police Union: Motorola Radios Still Failing

Cincinnati police radios are still failing despite city and police officials trying to resolve issues with Motorola since last summer, the police union president announced this week.

In a story you saw first on FOX19 NOW, the police union last fall revealed serious problems with the radios.

Transmissions were not understood at times or were not broadcast at all, putting the city’s officers and, ultimately, the public, at risk, according to president of the local Fraternal Order of Police.

The radios, considered “lifelines,” are how officers communicate with dispatchers and each other in the field as dispatchers relay information from 911 calls and police respond, said Sgt. Dan Hils. Officers are supposed to hit a button on their microphone, speak into it and be clearly and immediately heard.

Cincinnati police said in a statement Monday they are working closely to resolve problems and to meet the department’s expectations.

“While some progress has been made in improving the quality of the radio transmissions, there are still challenges that need to be resolved,” reads the statement from Lt. Steve Saunders, police spokesman.

“We are working closely with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 69 to specifically identify deficiencies that have been brought to FOP President Dan Hils’s attention and share these concerns for the effectiveness of our communications systems.”

In October, City Manager Harry Black sent Motorola officials a letter demanding they provide reliable communication as promised, including replacement radios, within 30 days.

Police officials have been working with the company since to resolve issues, but now Hils says only “marginal improvement” was made on radios in two of the city’s five police districts.

“I visited a relief of officers at roll call today and was inundated with complaints about this extremely vital tool,” Hils wrote on the union’s Facebook page Sunday night.

“Their anger and frustration with the slow pace in which this problem is being addressed is warranted.”

Motorola is working with CPD to “implement a new speaker microphone that more closely emulates the audio capabilities and functionality of the XTS 5000 radio that CPD used for many years,” the company said in response to FOX19 NOW request for comment Monday.

Hils announced last fall he directed the police union attorney to look into taking legal action against Motorola over the radio failures.

On Sunday, however, he said he realizes that won’t be possible.

“The unfortunate truth is the FOP does not have the ‘standing’ to sue Motorola. Legal action must come from the city of Cincinnati,” Hils wrote on Facebook.

“Since the report of our possible legal action against Motorola was circulated I have been contacted by a handful of agencies having similar issues. Why was this technology pushed and accepted before it was ready? What steps should be taken to defend the officers who defend us all?”

Issues with the 1,500 radios that cost more than $5 million began almost as soon as they went into use in July, Hils has said.

They failed when officers responded to a shooting near the Ohio River during Riverfest in September and during a struggle on the Western Hills Viaduct.

More recently, Hils tells FOX19 NOW the radios weren’t properly working Dec. 4 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.

“The radios completely failed that day,” Hils said.

Late last year, the city manager sent a memo to City Council outlining all the efforts police administrators were making to resolve issues with Motorola.

In November, the police department – working with Motorola – conducted tests of several microphone types and a new radio software configuration developed by the company, Black wrote.

As a result of the testing, it was determined that Motorola would:

  • expand and implement the new Motorola configuration on all radios
  • transition to a new microphone model for all personnel use
  • along with the police department, continue to monitor the radio network for performance enhancement options
  • assist CPD in engaging directly with officers via staff note and/or roll call training overview of the evaluation results and radio bets practices refresher training.

Black concluded his Dec. 23 memo by writing “The issues with the implementation of the new radios have been unfortunate and frustrating. The City and CPD are taking every step to engage Motorola and ensure the safety of our police officers.

“A number of solutions have been tested and improvements are being implemented that will address a number of the transmission issues. We will continue to actively engage with Motorola to make improvements and monitor system performance closely.”

In a memo attached to Black’s, Police Chief Eliot Isaac wrote on Dec. 22 he felt the steps police administrators were taking with Motorola “will rectify the deficiencies identified.”

But, he noted, there were still problems.

“Although we have made substantial progress to achieve a satisfactory solution, there are a number of isolated failures, the causes of which we are working to identify and resolve. As we continue to move forward, we will keep you informed of any changes.”


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