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LAPD radio troubles probed

Police commissioners press for more detailed information and funding to address problems with hand-held radios.

August 01, 2007|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

Calling it a life-and-death issue, the Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday ordered a more detailed probe into problems with the department's hand-held radios and for development of a replacement plan.

Newly elected board President Anthony Pacheco said a report from Chief William J. Bratton did not go far enough in addressing breakdowns and plans to swap out the 10,500 ASTRO hand-held radios. Bratton's report revealed that the radio system -- the backbone of LAPD communications -- largely functions on cannibalized parts and is only minimally reliable.

"How can we ask our officers to put their lives on the line and not give them the equipment?" Pacheco asked. "I'd like this report beefed up."

Commissioner Alan Skobin said the Los Angeles Police Department's plan to seek $6 million in federal grant money this year to buy new radios would not be sufficient. Skobin said a report on the department's needs would help push the city to budget more money for equipment.

The City Council "needs to understand the seriousness of the situation," Skobin said. "This says how we feel about our officers."

Skobin said about $6 million collected in a special fund -- from fines for false burglary alarms -- could be tapped for the radios. In addition, he pointed out that 3,200 new car radios had been delivered to the department but it only had enough money to install 500.

Tim Riley, the LAPD's information technology director, said the new hand-held radios would cost $3,400 each or about $35 million. He said the department sought radio funding in this year's city budget but it was rejected.

As a member of a panel that reviews officer-involved shootings, Commissioner Andrea Ordin said she has often heard of radio failure adding to problems in the field. While there have been no deaths, she said, "it is just luck so far."

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file officers, also is pushing for new portable radios.

"Police radios are essential safety equipment, and officers in the field cannot afford to wait until next budget cycle for this important program to be funded," said outgoing Protective League President Bob Baker. "Officer safety must be a top priority for the department."

During Tuesday's meeting, Pacheco was elected to succeed civil rights advocate John Mack as president of the panel.

"I appreciate the trust that my fellow commissioners have placed in me," said Pacheco, who was appointed in 2005 by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "I will promote an agenda that will continue to reform the department that we see in a way that is practical and that is innovative."

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