Friday, September 09, 2011

So How's That Digital Radio Working in the Milwaukee Cop Shop?

A few years ago, it became clear that Harris Communications had sold the Milwaukee PD on a "bleeding edge" technology:  digital radio.  That system was going to replace the old analog system, add GPS locating capacity for any police radio, and make Unicorns and Pixie dust gently land in Milwaukee to transform the city into the land of Happy-Ever-After. and satisfy PD needs for the next 10 years or so.

Well, kinda/sorta/maybe/iff...

Patrick's combox contributor provides the following report:

...They told me that the problems come down to two major issues right now: 

- There aren’t enough towers, by a long shot. This causes many problems at large scenes and is the root cause of the numerous dead spots. I was told that the city needs at least double the number of towers, so that the coverage areas have overlap and redundancy. Right now, there are only enough towers to provide the minimum coverage possible. Each tower only has eight “slots” that can be used by officers/ others on the radio, regardless of what channel they are on.

The problem is that the FCC needs to permit the usage/purchase of extra frequencies and each new tower site costs about $75,000. The process can be long and drawn out.

Nobody checked on that "detail" before the purchase order was signed?

- The other major issue is the hand-held speaker microphones. They are total pieces of junk. MPD is on the third or fourth model. The quality of the mics isn’t there, and almost every one is faulty, leading to poor reception and transmissions. The department is in the process of getting the newest model to all patrol officers, not sure if they will work better though.

There's an old saying:  you get what you pay for.  Are these Harris-spec'd mikes, or BrandX cheapo?

- From reading the radio complaint forms, I have noticed that there are significant and recurrent problems with the dispatch consoles. They often crash and all of the dispatchers have started to just have handheld radios on at their post so that they can still provide basic communications with officers

How many new towers does it take to fix dispatch consoles??

As a number of local private enterprises have found to their chagrin and enormous cost, "bleeding edge" software will make you bleed--but not necessarily function better, if you can function at all.

Progress.  Same in real-world as it is in politics.


Andrew K said...

Why can't they just go back to analog radio?

With the right, relatively cheap equipment, analog radio can have a GPS locator.

Dad29 said...

What the Hell does common sense have to do with Gummint?

GOR said...

One wonders if ‘digital’ anything wasn’t overly hyped by the vested interests. Since the TV stations went digital yes, there are more options and sub-channels – but reception varies widely (I don’t have cable – just an antenna). If it’s windy out, constant interruptions in the signal result. Same with thunderstorms.

And all the hype about ‘High Definition’…? A blank screen doesn’t need a hell of a lot of ‘definition’…!

Andrew K said...

I forgot about common sense. LOL