OAKLAND (BCN) — Oakland police officers are now riding two per car as a safety measure because of ongoing problems with the city’s radio system, Police Chief Anthony Batts said Friday.

On Monday, Mayor Jean Quan said city technicians who worked on the issue last weekend thought they had solved the problem.

But Batts said more problems have popped up this week.

“We have to take precautions to make sure that officers can back up each other up” until the radio communications issues are solved, he told reporters at a briefing where he also talked about his decision to remain as Oakland’s chief.

Generally, Oakland patrol officers ride alone in police cars, allowing more cars to be available to respond to crimes. When officers double up, there are fewer patrol cars on the streets.

Officers who are working alone and having problems communicating with central dispatch to get support could be more vulnerable if they’re responding to a dangerous situation, especially one involving a large group of people, according to police officials.

Batts described a good radio system as being like a lifeline and said, “When your lifeline is at risk, you have to take care of it.”

Batts said the police radio system “has intermittent issues that come and go” and “different problems are popping up.”

Quan said the ultimate solution to the issue will be having an entirely new system that complies with national standards for digital radio communications, which are called Project 25, or P-25.

She said Oakland already has more than $20 million in funding for a new system and she hopes it can be developed soon.

The problems with the radio system were highlighted during a shooting and high-speed chase on Jan. 26 during which officers had difficulty communicating with dispatchers.

The incident ended with an officer fatally shooting a suspect who was armed with two guns after the suspect disregarded an order to surrender.

The radio system was out of service during about half of the chase, which affected communications between the officers in the field and dispatchers, possibly delaying the medical response for the suspect who was fatally shot, police said.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)


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