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Lawmakers Raise Concerns About Troubled State Patrol Radio System

This is one of the Washington State Patrol’s new portable radios by Motorola.";

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 Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, is wary. She says she’s worried about taxpayers having to dole out more money.

“I think the State Patrol will be hard pressed, 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,” she said.

Motorola got a no-bid contract to deploy the new radio system as part of an FCC required upgrade. In February, we reported that the project is running more than two 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 officials and 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." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.