Troopers Demand Fix to Radio Problems

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The union representing Nevada Highway Patrol troopers is demanding management outline its plan to fix a new $10 million dollar radio system that leaves some troopers cut off from emergency dispatchers.

Rick McLellan of the Nevada Highway Patrol Association said problems include losing all radio contact with dispatch along some stretches of road and relays that use mountaintop antennas in places such as Ely and Clark County, causing blind spots for Reno dispatchers.

"In the outlying areas, we've had instances where troopers have driven around for 20 minutes and didn't know their radios weren't working," McLellan told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The system from Massachusetts-based M/A-Com Inc. also has caused problems in Pennsylvania and with the Honolulu Police Department, prompting calls for an investigation.

Reno-area troopers being patched to antennas in other parts of the state is a daily occurrence and happens more frequently to troopers in western Nevada outside the Reno area, McLellan said.

"That's one of our biggest fears," he said. "If we need someone to come help us, are we actually going to be able to key the microphone and get someone to come help us?"

Kim Evans, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Public Safety, said the system is still being developed by the state transportation department.

"We are as concerned as the union is about the operability," Evans said. "We are still in repair stage."

The NHP had spent $14 million for a computer radio system activated in 2000 but failed to apply for Federal Communications Commission approval to use the system's 150-megahertz frequencies.

Last year, the FCC ordered the NHP to stop using the frequencies or be fined.

The State Board of Examiners, led by Gov. Kenny Guinn, agreed in October to spend about $10 million to buy almost 1,800 new radios from M/A-Com so NHP radios would be compatible with the existing NDOT communication system.

That transition is taking place, and troopers who talk to the Reno-based NHP dispatch are the first online.

NDOT communications manager Richard Sheldrew, working in Las Vegas to bring the NHP system online there, said problems are being addressed as his department tries to work out the wrinkles.