Bell Gardens Opts Out of County Emergency System

Bell Gardens PoliceBell Gardens has joined a growing list of municipalities opting to not buy into a new countywide emergency radio network being built under a plan approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

“As more and more cities withdrew their support of the system, the projected operating cost, which will be shared by the public agencies participating, continued to grow to a point that LA-RICS officials have had difficulty projecting what the eventual cost will be for cities like Bell Gardens,” City Manager Phil Wagner told EGP in an email.

It could be cost prohibitive for smaller cities like Bell Gardens, Wagner explained.

He was referring to plans to build a network of radio towers to allow first-responders from dozens of agencies to communicate quickly in an emergency.

The plan originally called for building 177 towers at a cost of roughly a half-million dollars each, paid for using $154 million in federal funding earmarked for the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System, or LA-RICS.

Most towers were proposed near county fire stations, prompting firefighters and residents to complain that radio emissions from the towers would pose a health hazard.

Supervisors in March voted to delay construction of the towers to do more outreach, but last week, seeking to balance public safety with health and aesthetic concerns raised by firefighters and homeowners, they approved a scaled-back network with about 60 sites, none of which are near county fire stations. Twenty-nine are county-controlled properties that already have transmitters on site, including 20 Sheriff’s Department facilities, four county hospitals or rehabilitation facilities and the county Fire Department’s command and control site. Another 16 are sites owned by various cities including the Bell Gardens Police Department, which has now decided against building a tower at the station.

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SCMA Member Photos of Van Nuys Barricaded Suspect

An SCMA member who shall remain anonymous sent in the following photos of the perimeter formed around a Van Nuys neighborhood. Officers received reports of a man with a gun. When they arrived they were greeted with a possible 5150 (Mentally Ill) subject armed with a handgun. His family members were not home at the time and were able to provide LAPD SWAT information as to the subjects state of mind.

Before this incident the subject was on a methamphetamine binge and had been served with a restraining order by his girlfriend. The suspect was allegedly pointing a handgun at children prior to police arriving.

Once officers and SWAT were on scene, “a couple of random shots” were fired by the suspect, but “police did not fire back,” said Sgt. Vincent Aguirre, an LAPD spokesman.

The unidentified man surrendered and walked out around 5:45 p.m., Aguirre said.

Some evacuations were ordered, police said. No injuries have been reported.

Here are some of the pictures, provided by an anonymous SCMA member.

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Another Shooting in Palms – SCMA Member Photographs the Scene

The Palms area of Los Angeles has once again seen another cold blooded murder. This is the second shooting that resulted in death in the span of a few days. On April 19th there was a string of 3 separate but related shootings. In a matter of minutes one person was killed and 3 others were injured.

Today’s shooting, like the ones before, are thought to be gang related.

Club member Manny Martinez, KA6VJI, LA-195 lives in the area and was able to capture photos of the aftermath of this shooting. Manny also photographed the first crime scene on the 19th. A special thanks to him for providing us his photographs. Below is his work from today:



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LA City Council Approves Police Sites for New LA-RICS LTE Plan


Los Angeles City Council members voted to approve the use of 19 city-owned police stations as the location of cell sites for the amended Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS) public-safety LTE proposal. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is expected to restart the project—suspended by NTIA since April 3—next week, according to the approved special motion.

Previously, the Los Angeles County board voted to support the LA-RICS corrective action plan that NTIA must approve before the suspension on the project is lifted. NTIA, which administers the key federal grant associated with the project, previously stated that it also needed LA City Council support to lift the suspension. That support came in the form of a special motion approved by a 14-0 vote.

“The Department of Commerce has requested City Council action consistent with the county action by Monday, April 20, in order to assure that the project move forward,” according to a statement made before the motion was considered.

In approving the new LA-RICS LTE proposal, the LA City Council also approved the inclusion of LTE cell sites being deployed at 19 city police stations, which means the new plan includes 83 cell sites—less than half the 177 cell sites in the LA-RICS network design that was undermined by opposition votes from elected officials from the county and the city more than two weeks ago.

Problems with the LA-RICS surfaced when a local firefighters union led a public campaign that claimed the RF emissions from the LTE towers being installed at city and county fire stations would create health dangers for the firefighters at those stations. No fire stations will host LTE cell sites under the new LA-RICS proposal.

“We’ve already eliminated the fire stations, because of the geographical constraints, in terms of the footprint of those,” Councilman Mitch Englander said during the meeting, which was webcast. “Most of them—a lot of them—don’t have communications towers on them already, unlike police stations that have existing equipment and much greater footprints. There’s a lot more area to mitigate and work around a police station, particularly because they have large parking lots.

“They also have the infrastructure already in place at every police station, versus the fire stations—that’s what this really addresses.”

Councilman Bob Blumenfield thanked Englander for his efforts and expressed support for the motion, which included an amendment that alternatives for a proposed San Vicente Peak cell site be considered.

“Not only is this a tremendous amount of federal money, but what’s at stake here is an interoperable communications system for emergency situations,” Blumenfield said. “We’ve been told in the past that one of the problems that happens is that police departments can’t communicate to other departments, etc. This is a major federal grant to allow us to improve our communication that will help with public safety and will help with emergency situations.”

On April 1, the LA City Council voted to halt construction of the LA-RICS LTE project at city-owned sites after receiving outspoken opposition from representatives of the firefighters union and the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL)—the local police union. Yesterday, LAPPL Director Peter Repovich thanked Englander for working “very closely” with the union “to address all of our concerns” on the item and expressed support for LTE project proceeding, with a caveat.

“We want to go on record that we support this motion,” Repovich said during the meeting. “However, if LA-RICS fails to live up to the spirit of the motion, then we’ll be forced to oppose this.

“In addition, we want to ensure that this system is viable. If the [LA-RICS] joint powers authority cannot complete this project in a timely manner, as outlined in the corrective action plan, then we will be opposed.”

Multiple speakers during the meeting expressed frustration that the LA-RICS item was not included on the City Council’s agenda and that no supporting documentation for the item was available. Englander said that U.S. Department of Commerce officials informed the city late Thursday that the LA City Council needed to take action “by Monday,” soNTIA could include the stance as it makes its decision whether to lift its suspension.

NTIA administers the $154.6 million federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant that is funding most of the proposed LA-RICS public-safety LTE network. Current law requires that BTOP funds be utilized by Sept. 30, meaning the deadline can be changed only by an act of Congress, according to an NTIA spokeswoman.

With this in mind, Los Angeles-area representatives are scheduled to travel next week to Washington, D.C., where they will meet with federal lawmakers and officials to determine whether there is any way to give LA-RICS additional time to complete its project.

Source: Urgent Communications


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Santa Monica Joint Dispatch Center Unites Police and Fire

SMPD CarFor years, the Santa Monica police and fire departments had separate dispatch centers. They operated independently, frequently collaborating but regularly coping with staffing shortages, information gaps and delayed responses.

The fatal shooting at Santa Monica College in 2013 was a watershed moment for the two agencies. If they hadn’t seen a pressing need for better coordination before, they certainly saw it then.

“They didn’t know what each other was doing,” said Christopher Herren, the communications administrator in the city Office of Emergency Management.

That dynamic is quickly changing. Herren is helping to oversee the merging of Santa Monica’s police and fire dispatch centers.

Earlier this year fire dispatchers joined their police counterparts in what had been the police dispatch center, which has 10 workstations and which is large enough to support both agencies under the Emergency Management umbrella.

Herren credited former City Manager Rod Gould with bringing the joint dispatch center to fruition.

“He was a big proponent of this — it may not have happened if he weren’t around,” he said. “Both departments were reluctant to give up control, and Rod basically said, ‘Let’s have you both give it up and move it under the Office of Emergency Management.’”

According to Herren, it’s not uncommon for police and fire departments in small cities or counties to have shared dispatch centers.

“We’re in an area with a lot of single agencies,” he said. “People say this isn’t done anywhere, but the reality is that, in cities our size, this is much more common.”

The primary goal was not to cut costs, Herren said, but rather to improve response efforts and, therefore, public safety.

Emergency management officials said in an October report about the joint dispatch center that the merge is “essential in addressing the changing nature of public safety in today’s complex environment. Almost all significant public safety events require cooperation and coordination between the different branches of first responders.”

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Palms Shootings – SCMA Member Captures the Action

From an KABC online article:

PALMS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Los Angeles police were investigating three separate crime scenes Thursday after multiple shootings in the Palms neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The shootings began at about 3 p.m. at a park at Woodbine Street and Mentone Avenue. Two people were shot, including one who died. The second victim was taken to a hospital.

The second shooting occurred about a block away at Regent Street and Clarington Avenue. One victim was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

Several blocks away at a 7-Eleven at National Place and Overland Avenue, two other victims were found. One of the victims may have been stabbed.

Soon after, Los Angeles police citywide was placed on tactical alert. By 6:45 p.m., only the LAPD West Bureau remained on tactical alert.

Police believe it was all one related series of events. The suspect remained at large. No description was immediately available.

Neighboring Palms Elementary School was briefly placed on a lockdown that was later lifted.

SCMA member Manny Martinez, KA6VJI, LA-195 was so close to the location of the shooting that he was able to hear the gunshots.

“I first grabbed my handheld radio, scanner and camera. I looked out the window to make sure police were present and that it was safe to proceed. I went outside and began snapping off as many pictures as I could, because I knew this was going to be big news. I wanted my friends and fellow club members to see what was happening.” said Manny.

“I heard a second call go out of an additional shooting. I was able to capture a female officer running toward her patrol car, which I was standing next to.” said Manny.

When asked what image stood out the most, he said  “The picture of the DB (dead body). I was able to get the picture I wanted to capture. It was hard for me to believe that there was a person, dead in the street, laying there and people were in the background playing basketball. I was able to capture the whole feeling of what was happening. Just like another day at the park. They didn’t even stop playing basketball. That picture stands out to me.”

Manny told me that there was a lot of radio traffic. Units were on LAPD Pacific Base and Simplex. There was a lot of initial confusion.

Manny’s photos were featured on the NBC 4 website. Below are his photos (click to enlarge).


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If you are ever in a similar situation, please be sure to do exactly what Manny did. He made sure that it was safe for him to be near the scene and that his presence would not impact the job of the first responders. 

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Las Vegas Sheriff on Their New P25 Radio System

Sheriff Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department talks about replacing their relatively new Harris Open Sky radio system with a P25 Phase II system from Motorola.  According to the Sheriff, the Open Sky system (which went online in 2010) never worked right but officers love the new P25 system.

“Public safety lives and breathes and dies based on their communications.”

The city is now suing Harris.

This video was posted by Motorola Solutions on their YouTube channel.


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Motorola Is Unable to Find Buyers After Months-Long Effort

Motorola SignMotorola Solutions Inc. has failed to find a buyer after seeking to drum up interest from private-equity funds and large industrial companies, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The maker of two-way radios and other communications equipment has proved too large a target for any single buyout fund, one of the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information. Motorola fell 6.2 percent to $62.51 in New York trading Thursday, giving it a market value of about $13.2 billion.

Motorola also approached strategic buyers including Honeywell International Inc. and Tyco International Plc, without gaining any traction, another person said. Some companies were concerned that Motorola’s technology may become obsolete too quickly to justify a large purchase price, this person said.

Motorola has struggled recently, with per-share profit excluding some items tumbling 45 percent last year, and sales this year projected to be unchanged to slightly lower.

The company may be able to find interest from wireless carriers that want to deepen relationships with emergency-service providers who need reliable and constant access to communications networks, said Keith Housum, an analyst at Northcoast Research in Cleveland.

Another option for Motorola now — a share buyback — will only increase debt and make it less attractive to private-equity firms, he said. Funds are finding it difficult to obtain financing for large deals, and so-called club deals among teams of firms have largely disappeared.

Bloomberg reported in early February that Motorola had hired investment banks to find a buyer. At that point a sale process had already been under way for months, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time.

Spokesmen for Motorola, Honeywell and Tyco declined to comment.

Based in Schaumburg, Illinois, Motorola makes radio equipment for emergency workers. Its customers include the U.S. government, with 8 percent of sales, and automakers Volkswagen AG, Ford Motor Co. and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Motorola Solutions is the product of a 2011 breakup of Motorola Inc. — a company that was founded in 1928 as Galvin Manufacturing Corp. to make a device that allowed battery-powered radios to run on household electricity.

The breakup, which came after investors led by billionaire Carl Icahn sought to shake up the company’s performance, resulted in its mobile-phone unit being spun off as Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. That business was later sold to Google Inc., which then itself sold the handset business to Lenovo Group Ltd. in 2014.

The company has continued to divest units, selling its enterprise business — which makes bar-code scanning and radio-frequency identification technology — to Zebra Technologies Corp. for about $3.5 billion last year.

The sale of that business is one reason that Honeywell is unlikely to be interested in Motorola, according to Shannon O’Callaghan, an analyst with UBS Group AG.

“The piece of Motorola that overlaps with them was sold to Zebra, so if they were going to be interested in Motorola, that piece is gone,” O’Callaghan said last month.

Source: Bloomberg Business

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OCFA Helicopter Crews Ready to Fight Fires After Dark

OCFA Helicopter

Orange County Fire Authority pilot Jim Davidson drops a load of water during a demonstration at Irvine Lake Thursday. KEVIN SULLIVAN, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

If the Orange County Fire Authority gets a call for air assistance, its helicopter crews are up in the air within minutes.

Already suited up, a pilot and crew chief – a paramedic is added on weekends – switch on a fully fueled Huey helicopter and begin climbing the sky to drop water on a fire or airlift a stranded hiker or injured bicyclist.

Until last month, most of this would have occurred only during daylight hours.

“If a fire started in Orange County at 11 o’clock at night, we wouldn’t be here. … All the crews would be home with their families in bed,” said Fire Capt. David Lopez, who is a crew chief on the helicopters. “If the fire was significant enough, they would call us. By the time we got back, the fire’s built up, and it would be harder to attack.”

However, the agency’s air operations center at the Fullerton Municipal Airport began a six-month pilot program March 20 in which its four birds rotate 24-hour shifts to cover day and night calls.

The move comes six years after an independent auditor recommended the fire authority could improve after the 2007 Santiago Fire that scorched more than 28,000 acres and destroyed 14 homes in Orange County.

Under the new program, one aircraft will be staffed with a pilot and crew chief, with a firefighter/paramedic rescuer added on the weekends, at an annual cost of $1.5 million. OCFA has also received military-grade night-vision goggles and training for its pilots to fly helicopters on night missions.

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NTIA Suspends Further Construction on LA-RICS Public-Safety LTE Project

Cell Tower ConstructionConstruction on the public-safety LTE system being built by the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS) has been suspended, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which administers the federal grant funding most of the project.

“Given the Los Angeles City and County votes in the last week to halt construction on portions of the LA-RICS public-safety project, it is now clear that LA-RICS faces substantial challenges in fulfilling the project’s goals by the statutory deadline of September 30, 2015,” according to an NTIA spokeswoman. “NTIA is today suspending further construction and has directed LA-RICS to submit an amended project plan by April 13 that is acceptable to the City Council, the County Board of Supervisors and NTIA, acting in consultation with FirstNet.”

NTIA announced its position today, less than a day after the LA-RICS board announced plans to have LA-RICS representatives visit federal officials and lawmakers in Washington, D.C., during the week of April 20 to seek an extension of the Sept. 30 deadline to use $154.6 million in Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grants. If extra time is granted, LA-RICS officials hope to pursue alternative sites for the system and conduct outreach sessions to address concerns raised about proposed cell sites for the public-safety LTE system.

But extending the Sept. 30 grant deadline is not something that can be done at the discretion of NTIA staff, according to the NTIA spokeswoman. Some deadlines associated with BTOP grants have been extended in the past—in fact, LA-RICS is working under such an extension now—but those were administrative deadlines that could be controlled by the agency overseeing performance of projects receiving grant money.

In contrast, the Sept. 30 deadline is stipulated in the law that established the grant program—part of the 2009 stimulus package—so no one within NTIA has the authority to alter it.

“It would take an act of Congress to change the deadline,” the NTIA spokeswoman said.

Scott Edson, a commander in the LA County sheriff’s technology and support division, issued the following statement in the aftermath of NTIA’s decision:

“We certainly hope the NTIA will work with us, and Congress, to secure more time for us to work with others and allay concerns,” Edson said. “We have a very tight timeline to meet the Congressional requirements of moving to a new interoperable, broadband data system.

“Sheriff Jim McDonnell believes an extension of the NTIA BTOP grant funding, or the ability to use NTIA BTOP grant funding for a smaller scoped project, would be very beneficial to the region. It would allow us time to grow the system, it will provide many lessons learned to FirstNet and NTIA as they build out across the nation, and ultimately make it possible for this region to be interoperable with any ‘FirstNet’ (700 MHz Band 14) user agency across the nation, should they need mutual aid.”

Source: Urgent Communications


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