By Khalida Sarwari
Sunnyvale police say a radio system glitch recently compromised their ability to effectively do their job and want the city to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The glitch apparently occurred between June 5 and 7, according to Officer David Meinhardt, who says he experienced it first-hand during the 48-hour period. He became aware of the problem when he started receiving texts on June 6 from several colleagues.
“They were basically texting me asking me if I was aware if our radios, mainly on the police side, were working intermittently,” Meinhardt said. “There were problems sending and receiving communications from each other and from dispatch sending out 911 calls to them.”
Meinhardt said the glitch compelled the department to assign two officers per patrol car instead of one.
“We’re here to keep the public and everyone that’s here safe in the city of Sunnyvale, especially our officers, neighboring agencies and the public at large, and if we can’t communicate, it makes our job extremely hard,” Meinhardt said.
The glitch was apparently fixed by the end of the night on June 7, he said.
“We’re not blaming anyone,” Meinhardt said. “We just want equipment that works properly — you know, the way we’re trained to use it.”
According to Meinhardt, attorneys representing the Sunnyvale Public Safety Officers’ Association, which represents the department’s 200-plus officers and nearly a few dozen dispatchers, have requested a “meet-and-confer” session with city staff to discuss a mitigation plan. A letter dated June 12 and addressed to Sunnyvale police Chief Phan Ngo states: “While the city has made statements to the effect that it has identified the problem, given the critical role this equipment plays in public safety and officer safety, we would like to meet and confer with the city to discuss what the problem was, what the proposed solution is and what steps are being taken to ensure this does not happen again.”
The police chief told this news organization Friday that while a date for the meeting has not yet been set, he has agreed to meet with the association. “We are concerned too and we want to make sure this doesn’t happen again,”he said.
Mayor Glenn Hendricks said he’s aware of the issue and apprised of the association’s meeting request.
“Communications with our officers is vitally important,” Hendricks said, noting that a follow-up report by the Silicon Valley Regional Interoperability Authority concluded the system disruption occurred as a result of a Motorola technician conducting testing earlier in the week at the Valley Medical Center. He said backup plans were available to the department, however.
“It’s my understanding that in this particular instance there was a Plan B that was implemented and executed to deal with the situation and if those procedures need to be evaluated and looked at, then we should,” Hendricks said.
The mayor said it’s not the City Council’s place to get involved in the meet-and-confer session.