OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Police officers in Oakland are now in line for an upgrade on police radios that they said are unreliable.

Oakland has the 4th highest crime rate in the nation. Yet police said they have been dealt a raw deal in crime fighting, because when they need backup, their radios often don’t work.

Problems even happened during President Barack Obama’s visit to the Bay Area two years ago. Now finally, a solution is in sight.

After years of procrastination and political squabbling, members of Oakland’s City Council Finance Committee finally said enough is enough and approved joining a regional system used by other East Bay law enforcement agencies.

“We have spent so much time talking about the problem with the radios, we need our public safety personnel to be spending their time talking on the radios,” said Council member Rebecca Kaplan.

“Oakland police officers have zero confidence in Oakland’s radio system,” said Oakland Police Officers Association president Barry Donelan.

Oakland’s police union had pushed city administrators to join a regional system. But city administrators fought it all the way, insisting their current service provider has fixed the glitches. “There’s no difference in performance or liability,” said Harris Corporation’s Mike Dougherty.

The city cites cost as another reason they are reluctant to adopt the regional system.

“We averaged them out side-by-side over six years, there is about a $7.3 million difference between the two in the long term,” said City Chief Information officer Bryan Sastokas.

Bill McCammon, who runs the regional system, said it’s just the opposite. The city will save millions because it won’t have to upgrade its transmission towers.

“Everybody’s lost sight of what the system is for. It’s really a lifeline for the police officers and firefighters and they are being used as pawns by the IT Department to feather their own nest and the nest of a vendor at the expense of the public safety first responders,” McCammon told the council.

In the end it came down to the safety of Oakland’s residents. “We had a lot of bad guys with guns running from the police in my neighborhood. We saw our police officers on cell phones, their personal cell phones. They couldn’t communicate with themselves. We couldn’t communicate with them. It was terrifying,” said Oakland resident Hannah James.

The finance committee’s recommendation for a move to the regional system goes to the full city council next Tuesday. It’s expected to pass without a problem.

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