- The Washington Times - Friday, November 9, 2001

Metropolitan police have lost two key radio channels because no one moved a transmitter when the department vacated a rented building in Southwest last week, police sources said.
The channel for the Special Operations Division (SOD) and a tactical channel went silent Nov. 1 when the department moved its radio shop from its offices at 1501 S. Capitol St. SW to a pair of trailers next to the department's new garage at West Virginia and Montana avenues NE.
The situation has forced the SOD to conduct its functions by using a citywide radio channel. SOD provides crowd control and security for federal officials, including the president.
"If we go into another Defcon 4 mode [high-alert status] again, they are going to need every type of radio space they can get their hands on," an SOD source said. "On September 11th, trying to get through on the radio was next to impossible."
Police officials said months ago the transmitter and antennas for the two channels would be operational before the move, but a private contractor only began pouring concrete for the antennas' footing on Wednesday. Police sources said they are weeks away from getting the antennas and transmitter working.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said Tuesday he was not aware the two channels were silenced until told by a reporter for The Washington Times.
"That's a new one," Chief Ramsey said. "I have no idea. I have to check into that.
"It's not like we are without communication," he said. "We have multiple zones."
The SOD source said all police radio channels were clogged on September 11 because of excess airwave traffic, adding that the division would need its main channel if another terrorist attack occurs.
Chief Ramsey had SOD begin coordinating with emergency-response teams two weeks ago after D.C. Council members complained that too many patrol officers had been diverted to crowd control. Since the emergency-response team officers are from throughout the city, they are using a citywide channel to coordinate their movements.
Steve Gaffigan, director of the police department's office of quality assurance, said two months ago the transmitter and antennas for the two channels would be operational before the radio shop was moved. He said through an assistant that it was the responsibility of Eric Coard, chief executive director of corporate support, to install the transmitter and antennas.
Mr. Coard said he did not have details on the delay in installing the transmitter and antennas. He said the contractor on Wednesday poured the concrete footing, which will take about seven days to dry.
"As far as I know, they were trying to do it, and for whatever reason, it did not get worked out," Mr. Coard said.
A police source familiar with the transmitter said it will be weeks before it will be working because of the coordination needed to install telephone and trunk lines to the transmitter.
"It is not a matter of plugging up a wire," the police source said. "There are several companies involved, and getting them all there on the same page is a problem."
Margret Nedelkoff Kellems, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said yesterday she did not know the transmitter was down. She said she would inquire why it had not been installed before the radio shop was moved.
The radio shop's new offices are located in two double-wide trailers whose sewage holding tanks spill over into the parking lot.
Mr. Coard apparently forgot that the radio shop and transmitter had to be moved. During an interview in August, he did not know where they would be located. The department was to have vacated the South Capitol Street building by mid-September.
As a temporary fix, police officials decided to move the radio shop and workers from the 14,000-square-foot space in Southwest to the two, 2,000-square-foot trailers in Northeast.
The radio shop has no telephones, and is poorly lit and cramped. The trailers are not connected to a sewer line. Sewage is stored in holding tanks that must be pumped out.
Police sources said they shut down the radio shop Nov. 1 because the toilets all backed up. On Tuesday, the holding tanks overflowed and ran into the parking lot, where new police cars are stored.
"There's no room to work. There are no phones. The electricity is not right," said a police source.


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