Police Radio Problems

When Hamtramck upgraded it’s public safety radios, it joined the statewide MPSCS system. The HPD chose to forgo the use of dispatch and mobile radios in the cars, instead opting to run their entire system off “preps”, the small radios that attach to the users’ belts and shoulder. They did this in order to encrypt all police and fire radio traffic in the city. Yet, no other municipality on the MPSCS system operates this way.
On Friday night, something interesting happened on the MPSCS radio system. Detroit’s Eastern district dispatcher announced that “Jayne Tower is down” and warned officers “don’t get into any foot chases or priority one calls if you can help it”. Both Detroit and Highland Park dispatchers sent units to check security at the tower. The transmissions between dispatch and preps were all breaking up.
Jayne Tower, is the nearby MPSCS tower that Hamtramck, Highland Park, and Detroit’s Eastern district use for communication. If this tower is down, the mobile units and dispatch center are able to use more distant towers but preps evidently don’t work.
Detroit Dispatch went on to instruct all officers to use mobile units, because the prep radios weren’t working properly. Eastern District, having trouble with their main tower, can still communicate using the mobile units in the cars and dispatch.
Since Hamtramck uses preps for everything, including dispatch, they were forced to abandon the MPSCS system and go back to the old 400mhz system until problems at the tower were sorted out the following day. Currently, there is no plan to maintain the old system, but without it, there would be a serious threat to officer safety next time something like this happens. Hamtramck is also missing out on a number of features offered by the dispatch radios. Detroit knows the location of officer’s cars, for example, enhancing officer safety.
In order to keep the public from listening to the police radio in Hamtramck, HPD went to extraordinary means to encrypt transmissions and are running everything off the least reliable type of radio: preps. The recommended setup, what every other agency uses, is a base station for dispatch, mobile units for the cars, and preps for when officers are out of their cars.

25 thoughts on “Police Radio Problems

  1. Interesting story, but you should get your facts straight before writing. While it is true, that the Officers are running off preps. The station does indeed have a dispatch console. Two of them in fact. The reason for not having mobiles in the cars comes down to cost. This is a very expensive radio system, also very sophisticated. The Preps alone are $2000.00 a piece, mobile car radios start at $5000.00. Then there’s the cost of the dispatch consoles, antenna’s, computer software, and the license to operate. The reasoning for switching to this system is because of statewide use. This system was designed because of 9/11 so that agencies local and far can communicate to each other in case of disaster, man made, or by nature. One last note, in 2012 the frequency’s you have known will no longer exist. The FCC is taking all UHF frequencies and splitting them into digital. So The city would’ve had to adopt a new system any way.

  2. Thanks for the clarification though I think the story is pretty straight. If I understand correctly, the only clarification you made was that HPD might possess two dispatch consoles.

    We would prefer the HPD gave the community the facts but they’ve issued no statements regarding the radio upgrade. They don’t seem to care about communicating with the community they serve.

    I think everyone here is at least somewhat familiar with the Michigan Public Safety Communication System, and while it’s complicated, it’s been used by municipalities large and small for a number of years now. Moving to the statewide system was the right thing to do, we all agree.

    Both Detroit and Highland Park abandoned their preps Friday night and went to their mobile units. Hamtramck abandoned the preps too and went back to the old system. Without mobile units, what will the backup plan be when the FCC finally does re-issue those frequencies? There seems to be a large gap in our contingency plan.

  3. You’re wasting your time John.

    Steve and Hilary will never stop complaining about anything the PD does.

    It has been going on for years and will continue to go on.

    In their typical fashion they will complain about whatever they can without ever giving solutions.

  4. Typical cowardly way to “argue” a point there, Anonymous. First, I say you are a coward for hiding your identity. Then , when someone has an opposing viewpoint from yours, instead of presenting your side of the argument, you choose to poison the well (aka: attack the opposition).

    Before you go and attack someone again in the future, at least try to get your facts straight:

    I have personally worked with Hillary on police grant applications. Steve and Hillary have attempted to maintain a conduit of communication between the police and the community through their involvement with our neighborhood association meetings. Steve and Hillary are pointing out the recent community-damaging non-transparency policies by the HPD. They have offered solution to this problem by pointing out that no other city in the system encrypts all of their dispatches. They have reminded people that even the State of Michigan advises public safety departments not to encrypt these channels.

  5. Not only that, I think John’s wrong. I think they are dispatching off of preps.

  6. I guess anonymous’ point is that he thinks it’s right and proper for our PD to adopt a completely non-standard, secretive dispatch system for our city? Or that attempting to foster communication between citizens and the community is ‘complaining?’

  7. The answer to our problems is a robust community policing program. To implement that, the public needs to have daily logs from the department that include the time, date, place, description, responding officer, and disposition of every call, public transmission of radio traffic, regular attendance of officers at monthly neighborhood watch meetings, and officers and citizens having personal relationships. You know, like normal cities do, like the Department of Justice and National Sheriffs Association recommend, like the strategy outlined in the Weed and Seed grant that we wrote for the city. I have tried to further these goals for the past 5 years, and the police department has turned their backs on the neighborhoods time and time again.

    I have come to the conclusion that the HPD has no interest in crime prevention because reducing crime interferes with their forfeiture takings. Their continued emphasis on raids in the face of rising crime would be laughable if the people in the neighborhoods weren’t being victimized. Current HPD policies protect criminals and prevent victims from receiving services. In fact, I’ve been told that the log book was initially eliminated because Chief Doyle didn’t want Acts 29 to offer services to victims.

    This isn’t meant to be an indictment of all officers, or a personal attack on any of them. There are Hamtramck Police officers who love the city, and officers who disagree with the direction that leadership has taken.

    But the department as a whole seems to have a personality of it’s own that takes hold no matter who is in charge. It has the collective attitude that they can provide whatever sub-standard services they wish, and that we have to put up with it because they are the police. Even now, some don’t seem to understand that they alienated their fan base with this move, the people who have been sticking up for them, the same people who step forward as witnesses at crime scenes.

    Preps are unreliable, and the risk of officers going into dangerous situations with bum radios is only going to increase as the batteries age. If the city had endangered their officers to save money it would be deplorable, but the upgrade was covered by a grant. We actually paid more to have all the transmissions encrypted. The state will program radios for free, but they hired a vendor at additional cost because the state won’t maintain encryption keys.

  8. Numerous officers over the last year warned me that this was going to happen, and every one of them said that they were planning to run dispatch from preps and eliminate radios in the cars to avoid public transmission. This was confirmed for me when a lieutenant working dispatch showed me the radio he was using.

  9. Are there any city council members willing to take this on? This could be resolved with some intervention by the council and the city manager, right?

  10. Are there council members willing to take this on? I don’t think so.

    Could this be resolved by council and the city manager? Yes.

  11. Steven, I’m not wrong. Go into the station, and you’ll see the new dispatch consoles on the desk. When the system first went active, yes they did use preps because the consoles were not ready. I think the whole issue here, is that no one is able to listen to the calls anymore. Even if the system was not encrypted, who is going to spend $400-500 on a digital scanner. We can go on and on about the radio system. But the one thing I know is that if I call 911, the police will come tower or no tower.

  12. Last time we were there, dispatch was using preps. But that’s not really the point.

    According the HPD, the reason they’re encrypting is to keep criminals from using scanners. Who’s going to pay $400-$500 for a scanner? Law abiding citizens, not criminals.

    Hamtramck is the only municipality on the MPSCS who encrypts police and fire dispatch. Why?

    They’re not trying to keep criminals from listening, they’re trying to keep citizens from listening.

    Hillary’s correct, the HPD aren’t interested in adopting policies that reduce crime.

  13. In a time of constant cuts and staff reductions, the idea that citizen involvement with the police should begin and end with calling 911 is shortsighted.

    If the goal is crime reduction and prevention, more transparency and community involvement is necessary.

  14. Why do you insist on printing the same lie? Kalamazoo encrypts, Calhoun county encrypts, and thats just in michigan! there are multiple cities on the network that encrypt. There now that that is settled and now that we have witness proof of dispatch consoles, and the fact that regardless of encryption anyone with an old scanner would still hear nothing from the digital network, the only option you have is to push the belief that the police just dont like you(which may be true) and to try and discredit me with vague accusations and error nitpicking rather than accept the truth. Seriously dont we have better things to do than argue like this? If you really dont like the encryption get active in the community, get off your keyboard and go support candidates that you think may try to remove the encryption, or get a petition, or (heaven forbid) get up at a council meeting and voice your feelings like the rest of us. i await your attack.

  15. Calm down Roger. I think you’re the one nitpicking facts. It’s well known that the vast majority of municipalities in the state do not encrypt police and fire dispatch. You found the few who do, congratulations.

    If you have better things to do, feel free to excuse yourself at any time. Nobody’s forcing you to argue against policies that would reduce and prevent crime in Hamtramck.

    We’ve been working at these goals for the last five years and it’s become clear that the HPD is not interested in reducing or preventing crime. Their priorities seem to be forfeiture and overtime.

    By the way, Kalamazoo offers crime statistics online with mapping, very cool:


  16. Thanks for the new facts, Roger. You know, it is possible to introduce information to a debate without name-calling. Your current style doesn’t bode well for your campaign to be on the city council.

  17. I still listen to Detroit, Highland Park and Wayne County. Scanning isn’t something that one gets into by accident. People who listen at home are typically retired public safety workers, police officers and firefighters and their families, first responders, city council members, mayors, city administrators, reporters, historians, and neighborhood watch captains – people who have an interest in the safety of the community and in protecting our public workers.

    Have to say, I’m impressed by Highland Park. They coordinate closely with Wayne County, have call volumes similar to if not lower than Hamtramck, and their website includes pictures of the patrol officers with their names and e-mail addresses, including contact info for their narcotics division. http://www.highlandparkcity.us/Services/PoliceDepartment.asp

    I have heard that Highland Park used to have similar problems as we have, and so they disbanded their department in favor of county patrols for one year. That enabled them to form the new Highland Park Police with new policies and a more respectful relationship with the community.

    I’ve also learned some encouraging things about the 11th Precinct in Detroit. There was a police chase past our house the other night after an armed robbery at Halleck and Gallagher, initiated by an officer on patrol in the Powerhood. We didn’t think the Detroit Police had cars in that area with any regularity based on the things that people in the neighborhood say. And then they chased the guy from here to Mound and 7-mile. I’ll have to attend their next “1-on-1″ at the precinct on Nevada to ask how those of us on the border can best help.

  18. Why did they have to disband their department to make new policies? Did they have to hire completely new staff?

  19. I have to agree hillary, i like what highland park is doing in reaching out to the community with a webpage for the police with events and announcements. I know that Hamtramck’s website is undergoing a major overhaul and rewrite. While still under construction I hope to see similar initiatives by the city to allow links to archived radio scans on their website as well as community events, pictures of new officers to introduce them to the community and other relevant info. If anyone has suggestions, email the city through the website, i know i will.

  20. rh: As long a police officer who belongs to the union is still employed, the union contracts are in place. When the policing is outsourced to another entity, the officers are typically absorbed by the department taking over. Officers may apply for the new jobs when the new department is formed, and the city can hire whomever they like, including a chief from outside the union.

    Some on the council have been supporting the idea that we should just violate the contracts and take the unions to arbitration, but we’ve done that at least twice before. It only puts money in the pockets of lawyers and temporarily reduces the number of men on the streets to levels that endanger the public and workers.

  21. I’m sorry if I’m being thick or something, but I don’t understand how union contracts apply to policies of encrypting radio or keeping logs publicly available, etc.

  22. I’m not quite sure what Hillary sees in Highland Park as so attractive. Let’s review. They did not disband their police department to revamp it. (BTW, the Highland Park web site only shows a group shot of 5 officers from a distance) They went under the control of a EFM and could not pay for police services. The Detroit Police Department wanted nothing to do with working in Highland Park. They contracted out with The Wayne County Sheriff Department.The cost saving move was ended after it became clear that the Sheriff cost approximately 3x what their quote was. Enter The Michigan State Police. MSP was also out manned and too underexperienced in policing in an urban environment.

    At this point, Highland Park then started a police department again. A few hold outs from the old department remained. The city hired officers that were terminated from other departments including their Deputy Chief LaNesha Jones was fired from DPD for assault. (http://www.wxyz.com/dpp/news/region/wayne_county/police-officer-fired-by-dpd-after-assault,-hired-and-promoted-in-highland-park)

    Many of their officers have never been to a police academy and are on the road acting as police officers. Making arrests, answering calls and writing tickets despite the fact that they are not CERTIFIED POLICE OFFICERS in the State of Michigan. They are on the road as Reserves. Unlike Hamtramck Reserves who work to assist the Police Department, in Highland Park they work AS the Police Department.

    I think it is a great idea to model Hamtramck after Highland Park. Are you serious?

  23. I used to think that keeping our local police department was the most important thing. The potential and capacity for citizen-police partnership here in a 2-mile city is unmatched. I don’t think reinvention was the intent of the EFM in Highland Park, and they may have missed some of the opportunities they had for reform. But recent events have caused me to lose all hope for the future of the Hamtramck Police Department. Changing the system is less frightening to me now than the status quo. I would really love to have my mind changed about this. Please, show us that the Hamtramck PD is worth keeping. The good people of this city want to work with you.

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