In what most likely will be read as a metaphor for larger problems facing Oakland's beleaguered police force, the department last Friday temporarily lost the ability to communicate when a system-wide failure brought down the entire police radio system. That's right, for about 15 minutes none of the department's radios worked — and this was not the first time the system, which is also relied upon by the Fire Department, went on the fritz.
"Can anyone copy radio?" KTVU reports one dispatcher as asking into the void. "Can Patrol 2 copy radio?"
Oakland's former Public Safety Systems Advisor, David Cruise, summed up the situation to the channel noting that losing radio service is "one of the most dangerous situations you can ever deal with, right? You've got the inability to call for help in the field," he continued, "and you have the inability to relay information from the 911 center to the field. So we already have a huge problem there."
The radios have gone out before, with a particularly high profile incident occurring during President Obama's visit to the city in 2012. "That lasted about 30 minutes," Lt. Fred Mestas told the Chronicle at the time. "When you have the president there, 30 seconds is too long."
ABC 7 reports that in the last few months, OPD's radio system has failed on at least three separate occasions. A memo written by OPD Chief Sean Whent and obtained by KTVU blames the most recent failure on a "malfunction of the control channel."
The department intends to transfer the radio system to new network, but at present there is no timeline for when this will be completed. In the meantime, next time you need the assistance of OPD or the Oakland Fire Department, keep your fingers crossed that dispatchers will be able to reach them.