Oakland Police and Fire Communications System Is Failing

Thursday, July 19, 2012

More than a year after the city of Oakland junked its old, outdated police and fire communications system, it still can’t get the new one to work.

The public safety interoperable radio communications system, known as P25, was deployed in June 2011 at a cost of $18 million and has had problems from day one. Police union President Barry Donelan says, “You never know when and where it’s going to work.”

A memo to the mayor and city council from city administrator Deanna J. Santana two months after deployment cited numerous problems, including the discovery that the system had been launched with an incorrect version of the software underlying it. “Identifying and resolving this issue alone consumed the first four to six weeks of implementation,” Santana wrote.

Daily tracking of the system showed a decline in “system incidents” from 399 during a two-week period at the end of July 2011 to 232 in the following two weeks. Problems included 14 categories of problems such as: “unable to transmit,” “poor transmission,” “intermittent signal,” “dead spots” and “failed radio.”

Oakland had fast-tracked P25 instead of waiting to join a regional system of 40 public agencies using the same basic technology, including Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

Santana predicted in the memo that by the first week of October 2011, “we will have addressed the performance problems and, more importantly, begun to have established confidence in the system.”

Donelan said that hasn’t happened. “It’s worse than the old system,” he said. “All I want is that when one of my members hits the mic key and calls dispatch, the system works.”

–Ken Broder   


To Learn More:

Oakland Public Safety Radio System Still Failing (by Matthew Artz, Oakland Tribune)

August 2011 Memo: Update P25 Radio System Implementation (Oakland City Administrator Deanna J. Santana) (pdf)

December 2011 Memo: Update P25 Radio System Implementation (Oakland City Administrator Deanna J. Santana) (pdf)

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