- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2001

Metropolitan Police Department officials neglected to move their radio shop last month when they transferred the rest of their fleet-maintenance operations from a leased building on South Capitol Street to a new facility at Montana and West Virginia avenues NE.

So now they plan to put the radio shop in a pair of mobile homes next to the fleet-maintenance building.

"They are calling them the 'trailer trash of West Virginia Avenue,'" said a police source familiar with the move.

Steve Gaffigan, director of the police department's quality assurance, which oversees communications, said the mobile homes are a temporary space for the radio shop and there are plans to move it into a building that has yet to be built. He said officials opted to move the radio shop into the trailers because they could not find a suitable place.

"I have not been involved with the facility relocation," Mr. Gaffigan said this week. "I know there were some discussions about the requirements."

The radio shop, which is run by police officers and civilian employees, maintains all the police radios in cars and portable units, as well as the department transmitters throughout the city. Shop workers also repair light bars and other electrical equipment on police cars.

The shop also houses a private company that installs and repairs computer systems in police cars.

"The police department forgot about the radio shop. It shows where their priorities are. They spent millions of dollars on the SOCC [Synchronized Operations Command Center], but they don't have the money to relocate the radio shop," said a police source. "When the terrorists attacked [Sept. 11], all the cellular phones and pagers didn't work. The only thing talking was a police radio."

The department is having utilities installed on a gravel lot for the two trailers, which will sit west of the fleet-maintenance building. The trailers are supposed to be delivered in the next two weeks, and the radio shop is supposed to move out of 1501 S. Capitol St. SW by the end of next month.

"They are going from a building with 14,000 square feet to about 2,000 square feet inside the two double-wide trailers," said a police source familiar with the move. "A lot of their equipment is heat-sensitive, and you can't keep it in any storage building."

A temporary canopy will be built next to the trailers as a place for work on car radios, the source said.

"Those people need bays. I can just see them out there in the rain and snow with no heat," said a police official, who asked not to be identified.

Oversight for moving the radio shop rests with the police department's corporate support, which provides offices, shops and supplies for police officers and civilian police employees.

As late as last month, Eric Coard, director of corporate support, did not know where the radio shop would be moved.

"We have a couple of locations, but nothing has been finalized," Mr. Coard said in an Aug. 8 interview.

The radio shop is housed in a building that once housed the department's fleet-maintenance operations. Police officials sought to move those operations to save the $1 million annual cost of leasing the building.

"I don't know why they did not buy that building and fix it up. It would have been cheaper in the long run," said another police official. "[With] what they have paid in rent over the last 10 or 11 years, they could have bought it a couple of times over."

Officials moved fleet maintenance into a new garage at West Virginia Avenue NE but forgot its other police tenants the radio shop and mobile crime unit.

The mobile crime unit was supposed to be out of the South Capitol Street building last month. It will move next month into its new offices at 3515 V St. NE because of construction delays. Officials have not found new garages to store the mobile command center or its bomb truck, which are parked inside the South Capitol Street building.

Mr. Gaffigan said there are plans to erect a building on West Virginia Avenue that will permanently house the radio shops and other police offices.

Police sources said the trailers are not as secure as the brick building on South Capitol Street. They said security is necessary so criminals do not get access to police equipment.

Mr. Gaffigan said the lot where the trailers sit has a security guard, a chain-link fence and security cameras. But a reporter and a photographer for The Washington Times this week walked unimpeded through the lot, which was filled with unlocked police cars.

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