HPD radios center of some officers' concerns

May 8, 2012 4:46:34 PM PDT
Communication is critical for Houston police officers while they are on the job. But some say they're having a tough time staying in contact because of aging police radios. In some cases, they've had to resort to their own cell phones to stay in touch.

Members of the command staff at HPD headquarters say they are on top of it. This is all happening in the Clear Lake area of southeast Houston. Officers working the streets there say it's become a matter of safety.

In law enforcement, communication is critical and patrol officers will be the first to tell you having equipment that works is essential.

But Eyewitness News got to listen to police radio transmission from officers working the beat in the Clear Lake area of southeast Houston, and it was barely audible. A source who works patrol in that police district texted us that problems with the department's aging handheld radios are so bad, officers are using their personal cell phones.

"It's bad! There's no new radios and no parts for the old Motorolas we have. The city can't even buy parts if they wanted to! There's dead areas all over the city where handheld radios don't work," the text sent to Eyewitness News read.

"I pray to God that we don't have an officer hurt because of radios," said Ray Hunt with the Houston Police Officers' Union.

But a fix is right around the corner. New radios will slowly be phased in. The city is in Year 3 of a five-year plan to replace the outdated fire and police radio system with a state-of-the-art brand new one at a cost of more than $100 million.

"If we did not have this new system coming online soon, it would be a very, very serious situation," Houston City Council Member Mike Sullivan said.

Sullivan, whose district includes the Clear Lake area, says the first radios will be ready for use next year, starting with the fire department. While HPD admitted there are dead zones, a department spokesperson told us "the level of communication is not compromising officer safety. There are multiple avenues for officers to communicate."

"We need these radios as quickly as possible, and the lack of communication is a safety hazard for police officers on the streets, no doubt about it," Hunt said.

The current radio system is more than 30 years old. Hunt says he's heard similar concerns from officers before who work in other districts.


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