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Milwaukee Police Radio System Dragged Into Gov's Race

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Candidates for Wisconsin governor Tom Barrett (D), left, and Scott Walker (R).
Candidates for Wisconsin governor Tom Barrett (D), left, and Scott Walker (R).

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WTAQ) - A half-hour breakdown of a new radio dispatch system for Milwaukee police officers got dragged into the campaign for Wisconsin governor Friday.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, the GOP candidate for governor, accused Mayor Tom Barrett – the Democratic candidate – of not addressing a system that’s been broken in the past.

Walker said it’s unacceptable that Barrett has not put the safety and well-being of Milwaukee’s police officers and families first. But Barrett campaign spokesman Phil Walzak said Walker knows that a contractor caused the breakdown Thursday – and he’s trying to use the issue for political gain by blaming Barrett.

The breakdown was caused by an employee of the system’s vendor, the Harris Corporation. The employee took the system down to work on it without telling anyone from the police department. Barrett called that unacceptable, and he assumes Police Chief Ed Flynn has done what’s necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The radio system is called “Open Sky.” It has cost the city $18 million – over $3 million more than expected. And it went online in February, five years later than scheduled.

The new radio system prevents residents from hearing the officers’ transmissions on their scanners. But officers complain that the equipment’s faulty, and they cannot hear the dispatchers in certain dead zones in Milwaukee.

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