NORRISTOWN >> Weeks after the first radios were distributed in Montgomery County’s $36.6 million public safety radio upgrade project, officials began to realize there was a problem.
Some of the radios, which have been distributed so far to police in Norristown, Cheltenham, Abington and Montgomery Township, have proved defective. Some of the handheld units have been turning off without warning.
“It’s something like 10 percent of the radios that are doing this. They are arbitrarily shutting off, no indication, no noise,” said John Corcoran, deputy director of Public Safety for the county, “which is a problem.”
The malfunction is going to set back the rollout to police and first responders by about five months, said Josh Stein, Montgomery County First Deputy Solicitor. The roughly 300 radios that have been distributed so far will be replaced on a rolling basis and sent back to Motorola for repair.
“Motorola is going to get all of them back,” Corcoran said. “We discovered the problem early on as we were starting to distribute them. Fortunately we haven’t given them all out. They can continue to use the radios they have until we can get it all figured out.
The radios, Motorola models APX 6000 and APX 6000 XE, manufactured during a specific window, have also been showing defects in other police departments, including Atlanta’s police force, Stein said. From the bulk order of 3,800 radios that the county placed, about 2,500 are of the defective models. Corcoran said that about 10 percent of those radios are malfunctioning.
The company is fixing all radios of those models, with no additional cost to Montgomery County, and has offered an additional year on the warranty.
“As a result of this, Motorola is very apologetic. They’re embarrassed by this situation. They have extended the warranty for these radios by an entire year, so that is going to reduce the cost on the county in terms of having to repair or replace radios in the future,” Stein said.
Police departments in the county were expecting to get new radios within the next few weeks. Now, the county is working to switch out the defective radios in the departments that already have them. Corcoran said that he does not anticipate a shortage of functioning radios.
“Right now they will continue using their radios,” he said. “The ones that have the problems, they’re giving back. The ones that don’t have the problem, they’re still using.”
The defective radios will be replaced on a rolling basis, Stein said.
“We have a batch of radios that we have no reason to believe they’re affected by this recall. We are going to be attempting to replace the radios that are being taken out of service on a rolling basis,” he said. “As we get more radios that we are sure are not defective, we will be using those to supplement those police departments that have received them so that they are not without radios during this repair period.”