LINCOLN — The union that represents Nebraska state troopers has offered an olive branch in a dispute over a problem-plagued state emergency radio system that they claim endangers its officers.
The State Troopers Association of Nebraska (STAN) has offered to suspend its formal labor grievance and work out its dispute with the state informally, if the union can get more details about the problems, signal coverage and capabilities of the $17.3 million, high-tech system.
“STAN should have a seat at the table when these issues are being discussed so we can ensure our troopers are safe,” Gary Young, a Lincoln attorney who represents the union, said Tuesday. “We should not be in the dark about it.”
Young said the radio problems are not just about training, but also about whether the system — which offers only three frequencies per tower compared to 20 for Douglas County's 911 system — is large enough to handle the volume of radio calls.
“We're not persuaded that it is,” he said, adding that more information would help the union to judge that.
The State Patrol has agreed to work with the union “to continue a dialogue on issues or concerns” about the radio system, spokeswoman Deb Collins said Tuesday.
The radio issue heated up after the troopers' union filed a formal labor grievance last month.
The grievance contends that troopers are being endangered by an unsafe radio system and that it should be replaced.
Since last summer, radio failures plagued the response to three dangerous confrontations in which law enforcement officers were wounded.
Radio communications failed during a June shootout at a hostage situation at an Alliance drugstore; during a December rampage near Brunswick, Neb., in which a distraught man driving a tractor rammed buildings and a trooper's patrol car; and during a February shootout and chase in Johnson County in which a sheriff's deputy was wounded.
The union filed a labor grievance after the Johnson County event, stating that a trooper could not directly call local deputies for help early in the chase and repeatedly got busy signals later when radioing for more help.
Col. David Sankey, the superintendent of the State Patrol, has responded that the radio problems were caused by a trooper failing to push an emergency button to clear a radio channel and by the failure of Johnson County to join the statewide radio system.
He said that more training, and not replacement of the system, is needed.
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