Local police want something done about radio miscommunication

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- It's another step forward on the effort to use one dispatch center for 911 calls.

Franklin county leaders voted to upgrade the phones at their 911 dispatch center. This would make it easier to consolidate with Benton County, down the road.

Pasco Police Captain Ken Roske knew a man was actively shooting at police from his west Pasco home back in early July. Captain Roske remembers he was crouched behind a car, focused on securing the neighborhood. Other officers arrived and had no idea they were putting themselves in the line of fire.

"They had no idea the house was in front of them. They thought they'd be shown some place else, so they literally pull up and are met with gun fire," Captain Roske says.

They had no idea because of a communication breakdown, pointed directly at the separate radio systems used by local law enforcement.
Benton County and its agencies all upgraded to a digital system, Franklin County still uses analog, and Pasco uses a little of both.

To keep everyone on the same page on major situations, dispatchers are used as a go-between and that ups the risk for miscommunication.

The head of the local Fraternal Order of Police sent a memo to local leaders, demanding change.

"The bottom line here is community safety and officer safety. And when we can't communicate effectively, that's a safety concern," say President Michael Weatherbee.

His organization is calling for three bench marks with deadlines to prevent future communication breakdowns:

They want to move all cops on the same radio systems, hire a director to oversee the consolidation of the current two 911 dispatch centers into one, and have the center completed by next summer.

A lofty goal, but not when you consider the consolidation argument has been going on since 2011.

"It doesn't seem like anything has really moved forward," Weatherbee added.

He says this isn't about the blame game.

"We don't want to say a particular person or elected official or anything like that is a road block or preventing it from happening. We want this done because it's important. It's an important public safety issue."

A safety issue aimed at preventing another near-miss.

Franklin County's 911 phone system upgrade will be paid for by the state. Benton and Franklin Counties will have a joint meeting to discuss consolidation next month.