5 months of radio failures prompt police chief organization to demand answers

County, police chief disagree over latest incident
5 months of radio failures prompt police chief organization to demand answers

The Dane County Police Chiefs Association unanimously moved Thursday to demand the county board, executive and 911 director fix radio problems that have plagued the county’s emergency communication system for the past five months.

“Were going to hold their feet to the fire. No one’s going to get hurt on my watch.  And we’re going to try to deal with it the best we can,” Blue Mounds Police Chief Andy Rose says. “We’d like a temporary tower. A temporary repeater. A signal booster, or something, on the whole side of that county.”

The move comes after Rose said he and a Mt. Horeb officer found themselves without radio communication while holding five people involved in a domestic fight inside a Blue Mounds trailer park.

“And then to have the Taser out and five people going to town in there, that’s one thing. And then when you’re calling for help and nothing is coming out. Emotionally it wears you,” Rose says.

In this case, Rose said radio silence meant turning to a cellphone.

“We’re to the point now where we’re calling 911, we have to call on a cellphone to get in there.  Like I told my colleagues today, we’re good. But we’re not that good,” Rose said. “What if that went bad? What if we couldn’t, weren’t able to get more help? And now we’d have to step up our use of force to a lethal option,” Rose says.

This is the second time Rose said he has lost communication. Back in August,  the police chief’s radio failed while he held a teen with a knife at gunpoint. http://www.channel3000.com/news/police-chief-eventually-someone-will-get-hurt-killed-due-to-failing-radios/28099364

In a statement, Dane Co.Exec. Office Chief of Staff Josh Wescott called Rose’s information incorrect.

Pointing to a portion of a recording of the incident which Rose can be heard saying “We’ve got one at Taser point,’ Wescott says, “Radio recordings clearly show the chief was able to use his radio and get help sent to the scene.  He asked for help, he received it from dispatch – – by using his radio.” 

While Rose calls the recording accurate, he said he has an incident log which documents the radio failure. He also said there was long periods of silence and static on those recordings, proving dispatchers were not hearing key parts of their calls for help.

“My other fear is our county government is failing us. They have not done anything to fix this.  Why are we still going on five months later,” Rose says.

For the next year first responders must live with the county’s legacy system based on old technology, since the launch of the new emergency communication system DaneCom has been delayed.

The Police Chief’s Association’s move comes one week after the county board of supervisors voted to remove control of Dane Co. public safety communications from the Center Board full of police and fire chiefs and EMS directors, in favor of making them an advisory board.  At the time, the county’s argument was that by putting the county executive’s office in charge of the emergency communications, problems could be more quickly solved.  First responders worried because of the move their voices and concerns would not receive valid attention.

For the first time in Rose’s memory, Dane Co. 911 Director John Dejung did not attend Thursday’s police chiefs’ meeting.  In addition, Rose said their idea of  putting a repeater on the Blue Mounds State Park tower, which Iowa County has offered, has been ignored.

“They say they’re concerned. They say they’re hearing from us. Well not only are they hearing from us, but we’ve given them a few solutions,” Rose says.

Wescott maintained since Rose was able to initially radio for help, the silence that followed was not a significant issue since help quickly arrived.

“It is clear that the chief did not have to use a cellphone to call for help,” Wescott says.  “He used his radio and received help after he made the request.”