Veteran police dispatcher reveals "extreme problems" with police radios, CAD

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Concerns over Motorola Solutions radios carried by Cincinnati police hit City Hall Monday as a veteran police dispatcher came forward to reveal what she called "extreme problems" risking officer safety.

"I'm not going to lose an officer because I don't have the ability to do my job," Julie Pratt, a senior Cincinnati police dispatcher, told Council's Law & Public Safety Committee.

Problems with the radios surfaced last year almost as soon as they replaced the old ones.

In a story you saw first on FOX19 NOW, the Cincinnati police union leader announced the devices, considered officer's "lifelines," were failing at times when they needed them the most.

City and police officials have been working with Motorola representatives to fix the issues and that work continues. In fact, several Motorola officials are in town this week.

But the progress made is not enough, said Sgt. Dan Hils, FOP president. And now there are problems with the CAD system, known as Computer Assisted Dispatch system, according to Sgt. Hils and Pratt.

Last week, Sgt. Hils unleashed a bold campaign on Facebook to draw attention to the problems. He shared several photos on Facebook depicting officer's children and wives holding the devices, begging Motorola to fix them.

On Monday, he continue to raise awareness by bringing Pratt before the Law & Public Safety Committee.

Before she spoke, he told Council Members she was not covered by a union protection but felt compelled to come forward anyway out of her concerns over the system and officer safety.

Councilman Chris Smitherman asked her if she was requesting "whistleblower protection."

When she responded "yes," he read the city code that covers it and Councilman Charlie Winburn personally assured her that "if this administration retaliates against you" in any way, he would join a lawsuit with her against them.

Pratt then ticked off what she described as "extreme problems" with with police radios transmissions and the CAD.

Compared to the old system, she said, the new one isn't doing the job.

"The older system was definitely, it was built actually for policing," Pratt told the committee. " This system, I feel, is not. It is not fast. It's extremely slow. It's not safe."

Previously, during traffic stops, Pratt said she could tell in a timely manner if license plates tied someone in the vehicle to being wanted for a crime.

That isn't case now, she said.

Pratt, who has been a police dispatcher 15 years, said she would rather quit her career before seeing an officer hurt over the system not working properly.

"I'm not going to end my career like that," she told Council Members.

"I'm not going to lose an officer because I don't have the ability to do my job. And I'm seriously looking into that. That's why I've been so passionate about pushing this as hard as I am."

After she spoke, Smitherman demanded Motorola officials and ones from TriTech, the vendor behind the new CAD system appear before the committee in two weeks.

"So we have two things that are happening and I'm not again pointing any fingers, but I want them here," he said.

Councilwoman Yvette Simpson agreed: "So if they want to do business with us, they better bring there 'A' game, and I'm not seeing that from them, and I'm disappointed in that."

TriTech did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Last week, Motorola released a statement saying they can begin reprogramming the radios to optimize functionality.

"Motorola Solutions and the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) have been working together for the past months to ensure new remote speaker microphones (RSM) paired with new, Motorola Solutions portable radios more closely emulate the audio capabilities and functionality that CPD has been used to for many years," the statement reads.

"CPD's new radios were deployed last summer and Motorola Solutions delivered new RSMs to CPD in January and reprogrammed some for CPD testing purposes over the past four months. The City Manager last week told the Mayor and City Council their testing was nearing completion, and on May 17 CPD gave Motorola Solutions the go-ahead to begin reprogramming the remaining fleet of radios to optimize audio and functionality capability with the RSMs so CPD officers can begin using the new communications solutions as designed."

Cincinnati police are in the process of finalizing the field testing evaluation, which will enable a configuration of radio settings, the city manager wrote in a May 16 memo to Mayor John Cranley and City Council.

"The new configuration will then be implemented on all radios by the contractor, Motorola, who has been a responsive partner," Black wrote.

"The reliability functionality of these radios represents an absolutely critical first responder tool and one that demands our continued high priority."

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