I-Team Exclusive: Opensky Clearing Up
A TODAY's TMJ4 I-Team exclusive. Seven years and $17 million a high-tech digital radio system called Opensky that still doesn't work right. Critics say the problems put police and the public in danger.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn says he's out of options; the department is in too deep to just pull the plug on Opensky. The I-Team has spent three years reporting on all the problems, and now for a change, some progress.
From Chief Flynn's first day in office, Opensky has been an open wound.
"The big challenge, unfortunately, is Milwaukee decided to be not cutting-edge, but bleeding-edge," said Flynn in an exclusive one-on-one interview Thursday afternoon.
Since 2003, the city has shelled out millions for digital radio equipment, a lot of which, Flynn says, the city bought way too soon and long before he showed up.
"The technology wasn't where it should have been when we signed on the dotted line," explained Flynn.
For most of the last seven years the system has been plagued with problems like dead spots, obsolete equipment, and failed field tests. Flynn admits new complaints and concerns from his officers come in every day.
Reporter: "Are your officers and the public safe using this system, until we get all bugs worked out?"
Flynn: "Well, in some ways President Obama and I have something very much in common. He inherited an economy that he wasn't responsible for, but had to fix. I've inherited a radio system that I wasn't responsible for that I have to make work."
Flynn says the department has made more progress in the last year than the previous six by using seized drug money to hire a high-priced consultant to play hardball with the vendor, Harris Corp. Since then Harris has agreed to replace $3 million worth of out-dated equipment for free. The department has also ramped up officers' radio training, and is working to find the cash to buy each officer their own portable radio.
"We're going to make this thing work, because nobody cares more about the safety of these cops than I do," Flynn promised. "I think I've got a record to back that up. This system is improving everyday, and I'm not going to accept this system until I'm absolutely comfortable it's functioning as the contract said it would function and functioning in a way that makes officers safe."
The big question still: when will Opensky be up and running the way it's supposed to work? Flynn's answer: When he's satisfied it's up and running the way it's supposed to work. Flynn is shooting for late Fall. Ultimately, The Chief says, police officers and the public will be safer with Opensky system than the old one.
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