Police radios blamed for public safety concern

Police radios blamed for public safety concern »Play Video
TRI-CITIES, Wash. - Communication problems could have killed someone during a SWAT standoff in Pasco.

Law enforcement couldn't connect on the same radio frequency so it was unclear when officers and the public were in

It's a problem KEPR has reported on before. Franklin County has no plans to make the upgrade. Some are questioning whether politics are at play.

Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger said, "A bullet comes within a foot of his head, he hears the bullet going by him."

He's fuming after an officer was nearly killed last week. Commander Scott Child had arrived at the SWAT standoff in Pasco Wednesday night.

Communication problems made it unclear he was placing himself in the line of fire. This happened because Pasco PD and Franklin County Deputies use one radio system, while Benton County uses another.

We've covered this issue in the past, much of Franklin County is stuck on the old system. Some have called it antiquated.

Sheriff Richard Lathim says the radio system used by his deputies works just fine, and he hasn't been asked to replace it.

"No one has ever come to me and asked me, well what is your plan for incompatibility," he said.

Yet Chief Metzger insists his department and Franklin County need to upgrade to the same system as Benton County.

We asked, "If anything taught us Wednesday is that we need to get on the same page. Would you agree with that and why are we waiting?

Chief Metzger responded with, "Why we're waiting, that's a matter for all of the agencies to need to come into agreement."

The Sheriff says there is software that would provided a patch and allow his deputies to communicate with other agencies.

He thinks this has less to do with safety and more to do with politics.

He said, "It's motivation to change who's in the sheriff's position in Franklin County so that they have control of that person and they don't have control over me."

Chief Metzger refutes that allegation. He says this is only about safety.

He said "This is a public safety concern so this has nothing to do with politics. I'm not in any way endorsing or not endorsing anybody. I wish he would change his mind."

Upgrading Franklin County and Pasco PD to the same radio system used by Benton County would cost five million dollars.

Law enforcement leaders hope to use last week's close call as a new argument to spend the money.

The difference between the two systems is basically analog versus digital.

An official cost for the upgrade hasn't been determined.