Dispatch service outages in GRPD cruisers

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Police officers are dealing with a new problem that is preventing them from getting information in the field.

An internal email from police union President Andrew Bingel, obtained by 24 Hour News 8, says Grand Rapids Police Department officers are experiencing frequent, intermittent Internet outages in their cruisers, preventing them from getting or sending information about calls they are working.

In the email sent a few weeks ago, Bingel wrote he knows officers are frustrated and have “just learned to deal with it,” but asked them to continue to report connectivity problems.

He said City Manager Greg Sundstrom told him he was unaware of the problem and was “very concerned” and that Sundstrom said he “realizes that losing connectivity is an officer safety issue.”

“I find this very concerning,” Sundstrom told 24 Hour News 8.

Sundstrom explained the problem is like losing cellphone service.

GRPD cruisers have been sporadically losing connection to the main system, which includes access to email, photos of suspects and other information about calls and cases. Losing service also means dispatch can’t track an officers’ location by GPS.

“I think it’s important to know where every officer is every minute. It is an issue of officer safety,” Sundstrom said. “Just a few years ago we didn’t have this technology and we’ve operated for decades without it, but I want to get it back. So it’s just a simple matter of stabilizing connectivity to cars and we’ll do that.”

GRPD’s technology department said Tuesday it thinks it has found a fix to the problem and hopes the majority of issues will be solved in the next few days.

GRPD says officers can still do their jobs using radios — the way they used to do it — and that the connectivity problem is an efficiency issue rather than a safety one.

In May of 2013, Target 8 discovered police and firefighters were struggling with glitches that were delaying response times to some 911 calls. The city is still working through those problems, which were caused by the switch to a new dispatch system.

GRPD said the new problem has nothing to do with the previous glitches.

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