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Lawmakers Raise Concerns About Troubled State Patrol Radio System

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network

Washington’s troubled State Patrol radio system is getting fresh scrutiny from state lawmakers. The Joint Transportation Committee got an update Wednesday on the $40 million conversion to digital technology.

The project is still on budget, but behind schedule and troopers have complained of garbled transmissions. One costly solution would be to erect new radio towers, but state Senator Christine Rolfes is wary. The Democrat says she’s worried about taxpayers having to dole out more money.

“I think the State Patrol will be hard pressed," says Rolfes. "It will be a difficult sell in Olympia if they need more money because this project was already controversial when it was approved a few years ago.”

Motorola got a no-bid contract to deploy the new radio system -- part of an FCC required upgrade. In February, we reported that the project is running two-and-a-half years late and has been plagued with problems. In one district, the State Patrol switched back to its old analog radio system after the new digital one was so bad it compromised officer safety.

In March, McClatchy newspapers published a series of stories detailing Motorola’s close ties to government officialsand its success in securing government contracts.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."