Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
For Immediate Release
For Further Information Contact:
Hundreds of Officer-Reported Radio Failures
Open Records Law Uncovers Deadly Details
CRG Network will present over 500 pages of officer-reported failures in the “OpenSky” radio system. Officers describe in their own words situations involving vehicle chases, gang-fights, an officer shooting and armed assailants to Department leadership. Most incidents occurred between March and May of this year.
"That system has been plagued by problems, including faulty equipment and dead spots, to the extent that some police officers question whether it poses a safety hazard. A police sergeant has been suspended for 20 days after urging fellow supervisors to tell officers not to make traffic stops until the problems were fixed.
Work started on OpenSky in 2003. It was projected to cost $14.9 million and be operational by May 2005, but the price tag has reached $17.6 million - including the bonding authority - and the system only became fully operational last month. Police also plan to spend $284,220 in revenue from the sale of assets confiscated from criminal suspects and to seek additional funding in the 2011 city budget, likely pushing the final cost past $18 million.
In response, the council ordered police officials to provide an update on the system before spending the borrowed money. The borrowing authority was approved in 2005, but was due to expire if not renewed.
Ald. Joe Dudzik noted that some communities have scrapped OpenSky because of the problems they have encountered. Last year, the State of New York terminated its $2 billion contract, leading to a lawsuit by the system's manufacturer, Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems."
For Immediate Release July 1, 2010
For Further Information Contact:
Chris Kliesmet at 414-429-9501
Over 240 Officer-Reported Failures in
Open Records Law Uncovers Deadly Details in Officers
Citizens for Responsible Government unveiled over 500 pages of officer reports of failed radios that the watchdog group received under
“It is simply a miracle that no one has been killed yet,” said Chris Kliesmet, executive director of the Wisconsin Citizens for Responsible Government. “Every one of these reports document an officer unnecessarily put at risk because the Mayor can’t fix a problem or admit to a mistake. Mr. Mayor, there is a gaping hole in OpenSky. This disaster has been on your plate for six long years. Plug the darn hole before it ‘leaks’ further damage upon citizens, police officers, and firefighters.”
One chilling report from September 30th, says:
“Dispatcher gave out the address for ‘officer shot’. She stated over Ch 14, [redacted] and the rest was garbled. Someone asked her again for the address and she stated [redacted] and again the rest of the transmission was garbled. Someone then asked, ‘You keep cutting out on the street’ …”
CRG unveiled the complaints at a news conference Thursday at City Hall.
The same radio system that is still putting police officers lives in danger is expected to be forced on
“We call on Mayor Tom Barrett to block the use of these radios for any other public service agency until they work,” Kliesmet said. “Putting more of the people who protect us at unnecessary risk is unthinkable.”
In November the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported: “A digital radio system that has cost the Milwaukee Police Department about $17.5 million since 2003 still is not fully operational, and the system's dispatch consoles - which cost a total of $1.9 million and were installed in 2004 - are becoming obsolete and must be replaced by 2012.”
The Journal Sentinel went on to report: “Florida-based Harris Corp., which bought the radio system's manufacturer this year, said in an e-mailed statement that it is committed to making the system work. The company is ‘working closely with MPD to develop the best path forward for replacing the consoles over time,’ according to the statement.”
Citizens for Responsible Government filed an open records request for street officer reports of radio failures. “What we found in stunning,” Kliesmet said. “On a daily basis, our cops are dealing with radios that fail in deadly situations. We’re heading into the dog days of summer – when crime spikes – and we need to make sure the men and women who protect us are protected. Providing radios that work for our police officers and firefighters is a basic function of our government. This is simply unacceptable.”
Kliesmet showed a timeline demonstrating the Mayor and Police Chief have approached this as a PR problem and offered talk and more spending instead of solutions to protect officers. “The fact is, the Mayor and Police Chief have only been protecting their own backsides and not their officers,” said Kliesmet. “After years of broken deadlines, cost overruns and warnings from cops on the street, the system is still broken and officers are still at risk.”
“The police chief has watched out for himself and the Mayor. Who watches out for the hundreds of cops on the street?” said Kliesmet referring to the reports documenting officers put at risk.
Milwaukee Police Department OpenSky Radio
2003 Milwaukee police began the switch from an analog radio system to the digital system in 2003 in an effort to comply with moified federal regulations regarding radio communications that take effect in 2013. The regulations do not require law enforcement agencies to use a digital system, but many agencies are switching from analog as digital radio technology develops.
Initial proposal was for $14.9 million and to have the system on line by May 2005.
2005 Deadline for OpenSky activation pushed back from May to November 2005.
Milwaukee Common Council approved borrowing an additional $952,000 for the project
Deadline pushed back from November 2005 to January 2006
2006 Deadline pushed back from January 2006 to June 2006
Deadline pushed back from June 2006 to August 2007
2010 OpenSky goes on line February 2010
OpenSky taken off line after numerous system failures, including dead spots in the city that were supposed to have coverage.
Chief Flynn issues memo apologizing to department for OpenSky’s continued failure to perform: “[A]s frustrating as the change process has been, I am simply not in a position to discard Open Sky. This has been a seven???year project that has cost over $17 million in taxpayer money. It is a sunk cost. I owe you, as police officers and taxpayers, my best efforts to get a value return on that investment, one that simply cannot be remade, in the current economic environment, with new money. I can say with absolute certainty, that we have made more progress in the last twelve months than in the preceding six years.” (February 10, 2010)
Milwaukee Police Department hired consulting firm Federal Engineering Inc. to monitor implementation of the radio system. New York State hired the same company before terminating its contract for the OpenSky system. MPD has paid Federal Engineering nearly $149,000 for the first phase of the contract, according to city documents. The department is due to pay about $135,000 for the contract's second phase. The entire contract is being paid through the proceeds of assets forfeited to the Police Department, according to city documents.
A Common Council committee recommended reauthorizing the $952,000 on March 19, 2010. Reauthorization required because money has not been spent.
Quietly Staring Death in the Eye
Below is a sampling of actual police comments about the failed radio system from
Sep. 30, 2009 –“Dispatcher gave out the address for ‘officer shot’. She stated over Ch 14, [redacted] and the rest was garbled. Someone asked her again for the address and she stated [redacted] and again the rest of the transmission was garbled. Someone then asked, ‘You keep cutting out on the street …”
Jan. 15, 2010 -- “During the execution of a search warrant, [the sergeant] used portable radio from the above location to report various stages of the process . . . all I heard was clicking and hissing and was unable to understand any part of his transmission nor was I even sure any meaningful transmission was taking place.”
Jan. 26, 2010 -- Officers involved in car chase shortly after 8 p.m. “The pursuit lasted 6.6. miles . . . and reached speeds exceeding 70 miles an hour . . . . Initially, we were unable to get on the air, due to a citywide broadcast that was taking place . . . We were given the air to broadcast by the dispatcher, at which time I was able to give our location, and direction of travel . . . As other squads responded to our chase, I was unable to get on the air. The radio continually beeped as I tried key the microphone. The radio would also emit a steady beep as I attempted to continue the broadcast.”
Feb. 3, 2010 -- “It wasn’t until the entire footchase and arrest procedure was over that my partner was able to use his working radio to transmit pertinent information to the dispatcher.”
April 7, 2010 – Officers in the basement with suspects along with five