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Glitches Plaguing New Roseville Police Communications System

ROSEVILLE (CBS13) — Communication glitches are affecting the Roseville Police Department after the city switched to a new system.

The city started using the P-25 dispatch communication system in August. The police department has since been experiencing issues, and there's concern over officer safety.

Now, two Roseville police officers are assigned to one patrol car as backup.

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The city had the option to go with Sacramento or Placer County's current communication system, but it chose to operate its own.

Muffled audio over a police scanner was captured Saturday night of a Roseville police officer trying to communicate with dispatch. Communication problems could be heard for at least a half hour.

Officer: "Copy, what was the loud beep we all just heard?"
Dispatcher: "That's unknown."
Officer: "My radio is in out of range [beep]."

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The problem started after the city upgraded its public safety communications system in August.

"Our issues can really come down to having a hard time understanding the clarity of some of the transmissions that were coming through," said Roseville Police spokesman Rob Baquera.

It's a dangerous problem for officers to have in the field. They rely on dispatchers as a lifeline. Roseville Police say it's concerned about officer safety and has come up with a temporary plan.

"We have moved now to a temporary staffing situation where we have two officers per patrol car," Baquera added

The department is also using a backup communication system while the kinks in the new one are worked on in case of a critical incident.

"Anytime you are doing any major technology transfer like this you are gonna have some glitches," said Paul Niemann, a public safety radio communication expert.

Niemann says these glitches are pretty risky and could open the door to catastrophic incidents. The City of Oakland upgraded to a new radio system about 10 years ago, and failed in 2012, during a visit from President Obama. Oakland police officers couldn't communicate for about a half hour.

"This shows one of the reasons why officer safety is so paramount for officers to be able to communicate," Baquera said.

He says the new system was tested before it rolled out, but couldn't tell CBS13 for how long.

Dispatcher: "Loud and clear, how do you copy me?"
Officer: "Transmission is horrible .." (audio garbled)
Dispatcher: "OK."

A new communication system worth more than $6 million is taking a back seat for now, until it becomes a lifeline once again.

There's no estimated time frame for when the new system will be fully operational. The city says it will not be giving a final payment to the vendor until the problem is fixed.

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