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Police Radios Fail During Fort Worth Chase

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - A suspect chase by the Fort Worth Police Department turned into a communications nightmare early Friday morning. Critical police radio systems collapsed across Fort Worth, preventing law enforcement officers from relaying important information to each other.

Sources tell CBS 11 News police officers could not talk to each other on their police radios and therefore did not know the positions of other officers.  The issue lasted nearly 20 minutes.

Sources also say in the middle of the chase, one of the officers could be heard yelling, “I’m all alone here,” on his police radio.

A handful of other officers were only a block away and the police helicopter was overhead, but that officer was unaware.

The Fort Worth Police Department is in the process of replacing old analog radios with digital ones, according to a department spokesperson. The upgrade is expected to be complete in January.

“Radio communication is our primary source of communicating in the field,” says Stephen Hall President of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association. “If we can’t communicate effectively, then we are not able to provide the service to the citizens and it does affect our safety as well.”  Hall says the upgrade can’t come quick enough.

A police spokesperson says the technical glitch was addressed immediately.  Also, a small portion of the radio system has been taken out of service to find a permanent fix, but the department claims there will be no impact to coverage.

“Employees are our greatest asset, and a police officer’s safety is paramount to our organization. Our employees as well as our citizens can rest assured that the technical experts have resolved this issue and our radio system is working properly,” said Police Chief Jeff Halstead, in a statement released late Friday afternoon.

MedStar which uses the same radio system had no problems.  However, paramedics could hear bleed-over on the police channels.

Melissa Allen, who is the MedStar Communications Manager, says they can dispatch a call without ever using the radios because of their backup system in place.

Dispatch and paramedics can work a call using their computers in the ambulances, “When we put in a call, they actually see it come up on their mobile data terminals so they can see it. It also has all the call information to get them to the call, and they can also have buttons that they can push and tell us when they are en-route when they are on scene,” says Allen.

As for that police chase, authorities arrested two people about 45 minutes after it started. The suspected vehicle pulled over near the intersection of Northwest 25th Street and Market Street in north Fort Worth.

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