CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The leader of the Cincinnati police union has directed their lawyer to look into suing industry leader Motorola over $5 million in radios the city issued to officers earlier this year.
Sgt. Dan Hils, president of Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police Queen City Lodge No. 69, tells FOX19 NOW the radios are faulty and put the city's first responders and, ultimately, the public at risk.
Hils took to the FOP Facebook page on Sunday to announce problems with the radios and the union's possible lawsuit against Motorola.
"The ability to communicate reliably and instantly is a matter of life or death to police officers in the field," he posted on the Fraternal Order of Police's Facebook page. "I feel Motorola Inc. and possibly some members of the city administration are liable to this threat to our officer's safety. No matter the cost, this problem must be fixed immediately before there is a tragedy."
Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black said he is aware of the issue. He said city officials are pursuing the company to resolve the problem.
"When you're talking about any piece of equipment that is being used by our police department, time is of the essence and we are aggressively engaging Motorola. We'll continue to do so," he told FOX19 NOW on Sunday.
Motorola officials released a prepared statement and declined interviews Monday.
"The Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) transitioned in July of this year from Motorola Solutions' XTS 5000 radios to Motorola Solutions' latest APX 6000 radios with updated public safety microphones," the statement reads. "In the first week, the CPD indicated officers had expressed concerns about audio differences with the new radios.
"Motorola Solutions has worked with CPD to develop and implement programming changes to the APX 6000 that more closely emulate the audio capabilities and functionality of the XTS 5000.
"Motorola Solutions is working with the customer to address all issues and has provided on-site technicians to conduct audio testing and address operational questions with the radios and microphones. Technicians will continue to work with CPD until the functionality of the radios meets CPD's expectations."
Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman asked city administrators for an update on the radios at Monday morning's Law & Pubic Safety Committee meeting.
"I think there are problems," Smitherman told FOX19 NOW, adding that he put the radio issue at the top of the meeting agenda. "I hope we can resolve any issues with the system without a legal battle."
Smitherman and Council Members Kevin Flynn and Yvette Simpson all agreed officers must have properly working radios as soon as possible.
If Motorola can't do it, Simpson said, the city should get radios from another company.
"The most important thing is that we have working radios for our cops," Flynn said.
City officials reiterated to the committee they are working with Motorola to resolve the issue and will continue to pursue a solution.
"These radios have been failing at the most critical times," Hils told the committee when Smitherman asked him to come to the microphone and outline his concerns.
Calling the radios officers' "lifelines," Hils told council members the FOP's goal is not necessarily to sue Motorola.
The union, Hils said, would rather force the company to fix the radios at once than have to pursue legal action.
He called on city officials to "get aggressive" with Motorola to fix the problems once and for all. Otherwise,he warned the committee, the FOP will have no choice but to take legal action to protect its officers.
A few hours after the meeting ended, Black's spokesman released a memo he wrote to City Council and Mayor John Cranley to update them on the situation.
"Motorola has been working with the City in good faith to address audio quality concerns, including flying in a team of experts to ride along with CPD officers to witness and catalog the audio quality issues in the field. Despite these efforts issues remain. However, we are on a path that we believe will quickly get us to an acceptable solution," the memo states.
Full Motorola Police Radios Audio Quality Concerns Memo:
At least on councilman, Charlie Winburn, said he thinks the city should give Motorola just two more days to get the radios working and then sue.
Problems with the radios began almost immediately the first week they were put into use in the spring, according to Hils.
Officers wear the radios on their bodies at all times during their shifts.
The devices are essential to them doing their job. It's how dispatchers relay information from 911 emergency calls to start police and fire response.
It's also how first responders communicate with each other in the field.
But the radios aren't reliable in sudden activity or bursts of loud voices, which occur routinely in stressful situations after officers respond to scenes, according to Hils.
As a result, transmissions are interrupted, Hils told FOX19 NOW in an interview Sunday.
There also is an unrelated issue where the radios fail to transmit information in "dead zones" in various areas, he said.
For instance, he said, the first week the radio were in use, officers called for "assistance", the term they use when they need help from any officer anywhere nearby. A large suicidal man was trying to jump off Western Hills Viaduct. A struggle followed, but a call for help went unheard.
"Officers trying to save this man's life were now in a fight for their own lives," Hils wrote in his Facebook post. "Their transmissions could not be understood and at times were not even broadcasted."
"Other officers did not know where they were or the details of their struggle. Luckily, the officers were able to subdue the man and nobody was seriously injured."
"Because of this and similar problems the Police Chief ordered all officers to ride in two person units. I was told of this incident and others. I began to monitor the situation and the progress in the radios repair. Since I observed the police department making a sincere attempt to remedy the problem, I patiently waited for a resolution."
Another failure of the radios occurred at the annual Riverfest fireworks over Labor Day weekend.
"A subject fired shots near the crowd, setting off panic,' Hils wrote. "Officers in pursuit of the subject and officers dealing with the crowd were unable to transmit."
Police administrators are working hard to resolve the issue, he said.
But, officers' complaints and concerns over the radio problems continue.
He said he feels Motorola has had enough time to address the problem.
"I am very disappointed they have not fixed it," Hils told FOX19 NOW Sunday. "I am worried that any further delay could result in a tragedy for one of our FOP members."
Here the full statement Sgt. Dan Hils posted the FOP Facebook page:
"I have instructed the Fraternal Order of Police lodge #69's attorney, Mr. Stephen Lazarus, to research the union's standing for a lawsuit against Motorola, Inc.
This spring the Cincinnati Police Department transitioned to new radios purchased from Motorola. The cost of theses radios was over 5 million dollars. City Council approved the purchase of these radios last December. This was part of total communications project for the city at a cost of approximately 30 million dollars. Motorola had informed the City that they would no longer service our old radios and system.
The Fire Department was the first to switch to these radios three years ago. Those radios have required constant redesign and repair. Three years later some of these problems still exist.
In the first week of use of these radios by police there was an incident on the Western Hills Viaduct. Officers called for "assistance", the term we use when we need help from any officer anywhere close to us. A very large suicidal man was trying to jump off the viaduct. Officers trying to save this man's life were now in a fight for their own lives.
Their transmissions could not be understood and at times were not even broadcasted. Other officers did not know where they were or the details of their struggle. Luckily the officers were able to subdue the man and nobody was seriously injured.
Because of this and similar problems the Police Chief ordered all officers to ride in two person units. I was told of this incident and others. I began to monitor the situation and the progress in the radios repair. Since I observed the police department making a sincere attempt to remedy the problem, I patiently waited for a resolution.
At Riverfest there was another major failure of the radios. A subject fired shots near the crowd, setting off panic. Officers in pursuit of the subject and officers dealing with the crowd were unable to transmit. Before I was off on family leave, I collected statements from several officers who had experienced radio system failures.
When I returned to work I continued to hear concerns from officers in the field about the unreliability of the radios. I contacted the commander in charge of the Communications Unit. The Police Department is continuing to work with Motorola, but these issues are continuing to threaten the safety of the members of FOP#69.
There are many questions about the lack of proper field testing of this system and research of past performance of these radio models.
The ability to communicate reliably and instantly is a matter of life and death to police officers in the field. I feel Motorola Inc. and possibly some members of city administration are liable to this threat to our officer's safety. No matter the cost, this problem must be fixed immediately before there is a tragedy."
Motorola Solutions released the following statement Monday: