Computer glitch leaves police unable to talk with dispatchers

August 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

A computer hardware malfunction that left San Antonio Police Department dispatchers unable to hear officers’ radio transmissions has been fixed, but diagnostic testing on the system continues, city officials said.

Sunday afternoon the problem with the radios lasted about 20 minutes, but similar difficulties with communication occurred nightly last week. during the time the channels were down, dispatchers weren’t able to hear the officers, which was a problem if they needed help or wanted to pass on information about suspects or victims.

“You might be able to hear us, but we can’t hear you,” one dispatcher could be heard saying.

Officers were asked to partner up when going to a call.

The problems come on top of officers’ continued complaints about a nearly $19 million technology upgrade that revamped the dispatch, reporting and records systems.

But the radio system is separate from the technology that has come under fire from the rank and file, officials said in emails.

“This is related to the radio system, which is mainly hardware infrastructure,” said Hugh Miller, head of the city’s information and technology services department. “The radios talk to equipment on radio towers, and the radio towers are controlled by large computer components.”

Miller said it was a failure in one of those components — a channel control card — that led to the problems with the dispatch channels.

“The Channel Control cards act like a traffic cop and route the working channels to the right areas,” Miller wrote in an email.

He said technicians from Dailey-Wells, the company that supports the system, replaced that card and another piece of hardware.

When a similar problem cropped up last week, technicians tried a less extensive fix first, but when that didn’t work the decision was made to replace the hardware, Miller said.

Additional new system components have been purchased and further upgrades are expected, he added.

“The radio system has rarely had any issues, and we have never had an issue of this type,” Miller said.

Chief William McManus said that after receiving a full report from ITSD and Dailey-Wells, there would be a note in the department’s daily bulletin and possibly an email to keep officers informed of what happened and why.

“Anytime officers in the field are not able to use this tool, it could become a safety concern to officers and citizens alike,” McManus said. “This is why we are working diligently … to find a long-term solution.”

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