Iowa State Patrol Tunes Into eBay to Find Radio Equipment

A shortage of operable hand-held radios could force the patrol into changing its routine operations, including traffic enforcement, ISP officials told lawmakers Tuesday.

by James Q. Lynch, The Gazette / February 11, 2015

(TNS) — Even after begging, borrowing and buying radio equipment off eBay, the Iowa State Patrol doesn’t have enough gear to outfits its troopers or comply with a federal mandate that could cost the state $10,000 a day in fines.

The shortage of operable hand-held radios could force the patrol into changing its routine operations, including traffic enforcement, ISP officials told lawmakers Tuesday.

The state patrol bought 175 radio units, but needs another 225 at a cost of $2.5 million so every trooper has a hand-held radio that works when he or she is outside the patrol car, they told the Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals Appropriations Subcommittee.

“We reached out to agencies across the country,” Sgt. Tom Lampe said. The ISP found about 50 that the Ohio highway patrol was discarding. The Iowa Department of Transportation had about 20 the ISP could make work. It found another 11 in radio salvage shops.

“And we bought 10 or 12 off eBay,” Lampe said.

The equipment the ISP needs is what Lampe and ISP Major Mike Winter called “vehicular repeater systems” that sit in the patrol car trunk. It relays the signal from a trooper’s hand-held radio to a communications tower.

Hand-held radios are “mission critical” every time a trooper is outside the patrol vehicle, Winter said. Without it, the trooper doesn’t have a means of direct, immediate communication with ISP dispatchers.

Iowa faces a March 1 deadline to meet the federal mandate. If it doesn’t or doesn’t get an extension of a previous extension it faces a fine of up to $10,000 a day, Lampe said.

Winter said the patrol is reluctant to put troopers at risk without hand-held radios even if it costs the state $10,000 a day.

The options are two-person patrol teams so one trooper remains inside while the other conducts traffic stops or other activities.

“Or we tell them not to stop anyone,” he said.

©2015 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)