Clear cloud cover on po­lice ra­dio sys­tem

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - OPINION -

It was sup­posed to bring Penn­syl­va­nia’s statewide po­lice ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tions into the 21st cen­tury. In­stead, the sys­tem dubbed OpenSky left state po­lice ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tions dis­rupted — if not oc­ca­sion­ally dis­con­nected.

Now years af­ter its sched­uled im­ple­men­ta­tion, at a cost four times its orig­i­nal es­ti­mate, an­swers are owed about this $800 mil­lion boon­dog­gle.

An au­dit is a start­ing point in de­ter­min­ing how a ra­dio sys­tem, au­tho­rized in 1996 at a cost of $179 mil­lion, de­volved into a techno-morass that ac­tu­ally im­paired state po­lice com­mu­ni­ca­tions in ma­jor in­ves­ti­ga­tions — most no­tably, dur­ing the man­hunt for Eric Frein, who killed a trooper dur­ing a 2014 am­bush out­side a state po­lice bar­racks in the Po­conos.

In re­cent Sen­ate tes­ti­mony, state po­lice Maj. Diane Stack­house said OpenSky was “worth­less dur­ing the Frein man­hunt.”

The pro­pri­etary sys­tem so badly in­hib­ited com­mu­ni­ca­tions with lo­cal and fed­eral au­thor­i­ties that an­other sys­tem was brought in.

And while the re­place­ment P25 ra­dio sys­tem is now be­ing used in four Penn­syl­va­nia coun­ties, with four more to be added by June, there re­mains the mat­ter of clear­ing the cloud cover that looms over OpenSky.

At least one state se­na­tor has called for a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which the state At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice would not con­firm or deny. Ul­ti­mately what’s needed, and long over­due, is a re­fund. — The Pitts­burgh Tri­bune-Re­view,

The As­so­ci­ated Press

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