The Los Angeles Police Department prides itself on its cutting-edge technology, but when it comes to the hand-held radios that beat cops use each day to communicate, the department is stuck in the past, according to a study reported by the Los Angeles Times. The portable police radio system has far exceeded its lifespan, functions on cannibalized parts and is only minimally reliable, Chief William Bratton says, painting a dire picture of the department’s 10,500 hand-held ASTRO radios as a dinosaur of a radio system that has not been manufactured in five years. It is so outdated, the report states, that Motorola will stop making parts for it in December.
Many officers use their own cellphones for some communications because the radios are too cumbersome and unreliable. During a recent ride-along in North Hollywood, a police commissioner had to lend his radio to a supervisor during a man-with-a-gun call because the sergeant’s radio did not work. “My radio issued at the station didn’t work properly either. But it worked well enough to direct officers,” said the commissioner, Alan Skobin. “If a supervisor cannot coordinate officers in a man-with-a-gun call, that is not only endangering the officers but the public.” City Councilman Dennis Zine, a former officer, said the department’s priorities need to be officer safety – guns, vests, radios – and too often the basics are ignored in favor of expanding specialized units. “The radio is the umbilical cord of communications to the operators and other officers,” he said. “That could be a life-threatening situation. We are in desperate need of a new system. The radios are obsolete.”