‘Ottawa’ Recordings in Police Unit Lost as City Struggles with Comms Upgrade
Lost voice recordings in an Ottawa police investigative unit have become the latest blunder in the ongoing saga involving a multimillion-dollar upgrade of the city’s communications system.
The communications centre of Ottawa Police Service has confirmed to the Citizen that there was an “issue” in late 2016 that impacted the unspecified unit, but the police force said Friday that it’s too early to say what kind of effect it might have on investigations.
Adequacy standards under the Ontario Police Services Act require police departments to have a communication system that can record radio and emergency phone calls. The lost recordings, however, didn’t create legislative issues requiring the police force to contact the province because the communications centre recordings, such as 911 calls, weren’t affected.
The recording system is part of the city’s “interoperable mobile communications managed service” project, which is in the middle of upgrading a radio network for 5,900 users.
The city’s radio network was supposed to have been upgraded in 2015 to replace the dying system, but there have been problems getting the new technology to work properly and its rollout has been slower than expected.
The police service recently learned it won’t be transitioned to the new network until later in 2017.
Bell has the 10-year contract for communications system and is receiving $5.5 million annually from the city. While Bell is in charge of implementing the new radio system, it’s also responsible for supporting the current system.
Now, the police force is working with Bell to find out what happened to the lost recordings and why they were lost in the first place.
The police force says it doesn’t publicly discuss its technical infrastructure, but it acknowledged that the recording failure lasted an extended period until it was noticed.
“The details of the failure, including automated alarms, are under investigation by Bell, but the failure spanned a period of several weeks,” the police force said in a written response to questions.
It’s not clear if the lost recordings will hurt police cases.
“It is premature to confirm if these issues have impacted any sections. The OPS does not discuss details of any ongoing investigations,” the police force said.
The City of Ottawa manages the radio system for several internal departments and some external clients. The city doesn’t want to transition emergency responders to the new radio system until the bugs have been worked out.
The existing radio system is past its end of life, but the city and Bell need to keep the outgoing network running until the new setup works properly.
City staff continue to work on the fixes while contemplating the potential for compensation. There are penalty clauses in the city’s deal with Bell that could be activated.
“The city and Bell continue to discuss options within the terms and conditions of the contract,” according to Pierre Poirier, the city’s manager of security and emergency management.