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You Paid For It: Safety system or snow job?

You Paid For It: Safety system or snow job?

By Darcy Spears. CREATED Dec 5, 2011

Clark County, NV (KTNV) -- Almost a million federal tax dollars and an international award for a safety system that's never been used, and some say doesn't work -- at least not as advertised.

Those are concerns being raised by officers inside the Clark County School Police department who spoke exclusively to Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears.

Is it all it's cracked up to be?

You decide, because you paid for it.

Dramatic images and music are the backdrop of a You Tube video produced by Vegas PBS to showcase the technology that won CCSD Police a major award in May of 2010 from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

"The problem is that the system is being promoted as a system that works and works great and it in fact isn't being used," said an officer who asked not to be identified.

It's been a year and a half since taxpayers spent $5,000 to send three high-ranking school police officials to Atlanta to receive that award during a four-day conference.

"They should be concerned with where their money went, how much of their money went to it, where that money came from," the officer said.

Police officials tell us about $700,000--much of it from federal grants--has been spent on the system called Datacasting--which uses digital television airwaves to send data, like video, audio or computer files from Vegas PBS to school police squad cars.

When CCSD police were competing for that international technology award last year, they said this...

"The beauty of the system is that if I'm in the command center working with the emergency operations guys, we can look at one set of information and the officers on the ground can look at a different set of information," said Rhett Weddell, CCSD Emergency Management Coordinator in that You Tube video.

Officers we spoke to say they've seen nothing.

"It appears to be a system that is non-existent."

But in a May, 2010 press release from Datacast developer SpectraRep, Police Chief Filiberto Arroyo is quoted as saying, "This technology saves time and has greatly improved our incident response."  
"He's not giving specific examples, not relying on specific incidents that could be pointed to at that time where it actually had done that?" Darcy Spears asked CCSD Police Spokesperson Lt. Ken Young.

"No. Not that I'm aware of."  Lt. Young says Arroyo was talking about the future.

At the time, Young himself said in the You Tube video, "Anything that helps us save time, we're looking at it as helping us to save lives."

Darcy Spears: "Can we say there's been a life saved?"
Lt. Young: "There hasn't been a major incident where we can say yeah we've saved a life because of this system."

Other articles from last Spring talk about how the technology has been implemented and deployed, which means that it's being actively used.

But Young says it's only been tested in training.

And during that testing, they discovered a big flaw.

The way the system works is the digital signal which starts at Vegas PBS is transmitted to laptops in the police cars.  The only problem is, the car has to be stationary.  If it's moving, the signal is lost.

"So if you're going to an important call and you need to receive information on Datacast, you're going to have to pull over and park," the officer explained.  "Well, that just took your time element away because you're no longer rolling to the call."

"From the initial onset we thought that officers would be able to get it as they're rolling," Lt. Young said.  "As this system was being built we found out a lot of things that we initially wanted or thought could not happen.  When we initially designed the system, we had a lot of grand ideas about what we thought the system might be used for. "

Like something as simple as responding to a parking lot fight.

Sgt. Brian Nebeker on You Tube: "This will give me the ability to look and see my most advantageous way to enter."

Turns out...

"We didn't need Datacasting for that," says Lt. Young.  "We have another system that would do that."

A system that all school police officers already have access to through their cars' laptops.

And though police originally pitched Datacasting as something that would be sent to every officer in the field so, "they'll have everything at their fingertips," that's not the reality either.

Young says 60-percent of the fleet has been retrofitted to receive Datacasting, but they made a decision at the administrative level to only send information to supervisors... making those we spoke to wonder just how much good the system can really do.

When we called the International Association of Chiefs of Police about that award and whether they felt misled based on what they were told versus what the reality is, they refused to comment. 

But both Vegas PBS and Datacast developer SpectraRep remain very proud of their system. 

They say it's the wave of the future and if we didn't do it here, we'd have lost the federal money to another jurisdiction. 

They say it will someday be responsible for saving the life of a CCSD student. 

We've posted SpectraRep's full statement in conjunction with this story.

Check it out and then send us an email to telling us how you feel about the fact that you paid for it.


Darcy Spears

Darcy Spears

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Darcy Spears is currently the Chief Investigative Reporter for Action News.