Members of the Tri-Cities' Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) demand a consolidated 911 system for Benton and Franklin Counties in a letter sent to local law enforcement leaders.
The FOP also wants an 800 megahertz system for Pasco and Franklin County law enforcement, something Sheriff Richard Lathim told us he doesn't want because of concerns about radio signal coverage.
Benton County is already on an 800 megahertz system.
The FOP is asking that 911 centers be consolidated by the summer of 2015 and that an executive director be hired to coordinate and implement the move.
The recommendation comes following the July 9th standoff in Pasco during which responding officers from neighboring agencies were hampered by the radio systems because they couldn't communicate with each other.
One Kennewick Police commander was nearly shot in the crossfire because of the miscommunication.
Here is a copy of the complete letter:
July 17, 2014
To: Brad Peck, Franklin County Commissioner
Robert Koch, Franklin County Commissioner
Rick Miller, Franklin County Commissioner
Shawn Small, Benton County Commissioner
Jim Beaver, Benton County Commissioner
Jerome Delvin, Benton County Commissioner
Stan Strebel, Pasco Deputy/Acting City Manager
Marie Mosely, Kennewick City Manager
Cindy Johnson, Richland City Manager
Brent Gerry, West Richland Mayor
From: Mike Weatherbee, President
Fraternal Order of Police
Tri Cities Lodge #7
Members of the Fraternal Order of Police, Tri-Cities Lodge #7 and their families are extremely concerned for the safety of our citizens and our members as it relates to emergency radio communications between both Benton and Franklin County. At the July 10th membership meeting of the FOP in the Tri-Cities this particular issue was discussed at length and the member law enforcement officers have voted unanimously to no longer sit idly by while our local governments continue to postpone having a communication system in place for those who respond to emergency and/or life threatening situations, thereby placing our lives in jeopardy. For those of you who may not be aware of the most recent situation we have attached a newscast for your review or you can view it at: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10152976288234746&id=209793224745 If you listen to the audio of the gunfire you should easily see our concern.
Over the past seven or eight years local law enforcement officers and administrators have expressed real safety concerns having two 911 dispatch/call centers with two disparate law enforcement radio platforms, both of which prevent police officers from communicating directly with each other during serious critical events and continues to obstruct the unified coordinated response by the 911 dispatch centers. 25 plus years ago officers from throughout the Tri Cities were capable of communicating with each other via police radio. Why can we not now?
This issue was the subject of an independent study by EGOV in 2011 which recommended consolidating the two 911 dispatch centers and moving both Benton and Franklin County law enforcement agencies to a single radio platform. In the fall of 2013, at a joint county commissioners meeting, both counties agreed that consolidation was necessary. Since that time however, no actual movement has occurred since the original report in 2011 was provided and only the ongoing continued reviews and rewrites of the studies have taken place. Enough!
As previously mentioned, we are sure you are aware of a most recent event on July 9th that occurred in the City of Pasco where the responding police officers from neighboring Tri Cities agencies were hampered by the disparate radio systems and cumbersome delayed transfer of critical information between the Benton County and Franklin County 911 centers. As a result of the ongoing inaction to this issue your officers were placed, unnecessarily, in harm’s way. Responding officers were arriving on scene and literally in the suspect’s line of fire because of the lack of communication with the current information. If you watch the aforementioned video link, actual bullets were fired in their direction and whizzed past their heads which could have easily cost any of the arriving responding officer’s their lives. This critical and dangerous event is a direct result of the lack of action to move forward with the recommended consolidation that has been in place since 2011.
The critical event on Sacramento Street in Pasco certainly brings to light the urgency of consolidating the two 911 centers but there are other life threatening events placing our citizens and police officers at risk occur on a daily basis in the two counties.
This issue has been studied and you have been provided recommendations. The members of the Fraternal Order of Police and local law enforcement are now calling for immediate action from you, the elected officials in Benton and Franklin County. We hope you understand the urgency of this issue and each day that consolidation is delayed, places our citizens and your police officers at risk.
Next week the FOP plans to move forward with a public information announcement and education campaign informing the citizens of the serious nature of this matter from our perspective. We will inform them exactly how they and their police officers are not provided adequate communications to protect us and that the elected officials have been given recommendations for solving the issues since 2011. Our announcement will make it clear that police officers are now holding elected officials accountable for this safety issue and we will be asking that the public should as well. We urge you NOW, as elected officials, to take action and start the consolidation process without delay.
It is disappointing that since 2011, and more recently October 2013, no actual move to consolidate the two 911 centers has taken place. The lives of your police officers were at extreme risk on July 9th and each day and night since then. Elected officials have spent plenty of time bantering back and forth about frivolous details and pot shot politics. Politics can easily get in the way of good judgment and as elected officials we believe you have failed to act with the urgency of this matter. We need you to immediately establish progressive bench marks that provide for an expedited completion of this project. After careful and a full review of the consultant’s report, these already established bench marks need to be completed:
1. Immediately provide, on a temporary basis, 800 MHz capability for Pasco/Franklin County law enforcement at the Franklin County 911 center and sign the Inter-local agreement for consolidated 911 centers. These could and should be done simultaneously.
2. Hire an executive director to coordinate and implement the consolidated 911 centers by the fall of 2014.
3. Complete the 911 center consolidation by the summer of 2015.
We recognize these bench marks are accelerated, but based on the past performance since 2011 the police officer placing their lives on the line each night, and the public we serve, most certainly are worthy of this pace.
On behalf of every law enforcement officer and FOP members (400+) in the Tri Cities we ask for your unconditional support in protecting us by providing an adequate communication system that the police officers in the Tri-Cities can depend on to protect you, our citizens and ourselves.
Cc: Chief Bob Metzger, Pasco Police
Sheriff Richard Lathim, Franklin County
Chief Chris Skinner, Richland Police
Chief Ken Hohenberg, Kennewick Police
Sheriff Steve Keane, Benton County
Chief Brian McElroy, West Richland Police
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