January 3, 2005
Story by nbc10.com PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police has put out an official cry for help in fixing its radio communications system. The union called on the mayor to fix the radios, or get rid of them. The FOP said the request comes after the system broke down three more times in recent weeks. It said that the 2.5-year-old, $52 million Motorola system makes officer feel like they don’t have a dependable lifeline on the street and that the system seems too complex to fix. "If it’s so complex, then it is time to trash it and get a new system," said Sgt. Charlie Marsden. Marsden brought two cans and a string to the FOP press conference Monday, saying the radios they have don’t seem to work much better. A sign above the FOP’s front door that says "HELP!" loudly expressed the officers’ frustrations. "I got young officers under me. I’m afraid somebody’s going to get hurt. We need this system fixed," Marsden said. "We had three radio failures during Christmas holidays. The greatest fear on Saturday was, ‘What happens during the Mummers if the radios go down?’" said Bob Eddis, of the FOP. The latest glitch in the problem-plagued radio system came Dec. 27 when static kept interfering with officers’ communications in the northeast. Officials believe it was a phone line related problem. Before that, the problem was chalked up to human error and before that, there was cell phone interference. "That’s a national issue. To throw out this system and have another system, you are going to have the same problem," said Phil Goldsmith, the city’s managing director. "The old system was far worse than the system we have now," Mayor John Street said. Street, the police commissioner and City Council members all said that they are concerned but most still believe this is a state-of-the art radio that is working well most of the time. Motorola is currently experimenting with moving the officers’ mayday button to a more easily accessible place on the radio. "We’re just trying to say that, ‘After you spend $52 million, can I please have a radio that works?’ I guess it’s that simple," Eddis said. A Motorola spokesperson told NBC 10 News Monday that there is nothing wrong with the system.
Goldsmith said that 13 failures in 2.5 years is not a lot. Meanwhile, the city comptroller’s office is investigating.