Wednesday afternoon, the city’s communications system dropped out for about five minutes, meaning police and public safety agencies couldn’t reach one another effectively.

Those kinds of basic infrastructure issues should take priority over more philosophical concerns like improving civilian oversight and boosting transparency, argued Jeff Jordon, vice president of the Police Officers Association, Wednesday night.

Jordon’s Twitter exchange with SDSU professor Joshua Chanin provided a fascinating window into the competing priorities the department must address as it continues to repair public trust and perception after a series of misconduct scandals.

Chanin’s been analyzing police department websites to grade them on transparency. SDPD didn’t come out looking so hot.

@JoshuaChanin @dillonliam i enjoy your work, especially the phd thesis, agree transparency has value. But id like radio that works 1st

— jeffrey t jordon (@jtjordon) May 8, 2014

@jtjordon @dillonliam Can’t have a police force without a working communication system.

— Joshua Chanin (@JoshuaChanin) May 8, 2014

The mayor’s office told NBC 7 the city was still trying to figure out what caused the radio outage and how to prevent it in the future.

Normally a brief radio outage wouldn’t have such a big impact, but the backup system was offline while it awaits a replacement part. The city’s in the process of taking its analog communications system into the digital age. “All phone and computer systems continued to work during this time and there was no interruption in service to the public. Personnel have the ability to switch to a different talk group to communicate via their radios during such an incident,” SDPD spokesman Kevin Mayer told me in an email. “As far as we know, an incident like this has not happened in the past two decades.” On Twitter, Jordon underscored the potential conflict between all parties invested in improving the department.

@JoshuaChanin @dillonliam yes, & your Vosd stuff sparked interesting debate among officers, as many believe city more concerned about 1 of 2 — jeffrey t jordon (@jtjordon) May 8, 2014

@JoshuaChanin @dillonliam wants of citizens versus immediate needs of officers. — jeffrey t jordon (@jtjordon) May 8, 2014

@jtjordon @dillonliam Seems to me it shouldn’t be a choice between one or another. If it is, then city and PD has big problems. — Joshua Chanin (@JoshuaChanin) May 8, 2014

@JoshuaChanin @dillonliam if we were a pot hole, it would take over à hundred milllion to fix us, some of it one time monies some recurring. — jeffrey t jordon (@jtjordon) May 8, 2014

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s first proposed budget included a hefty amount for infrastructure fixes – $300 million. His proposal directed $9.6 million toward the police department, including officer retention programs and $1 million for the new police body camera program.  The SDPOA has voiced concerns before about the body cameras, and the expenses attached are projected to be pretty high.

@JoshuaChanin @dillonliam this is before we add in the cost of cameras, stop data cards, and every piece of transparency you could ask for — jeffrey t jordon (@jtjordon) May 8, 2014

@JoshuaChanin @dillonliam and yes, we have big problems at sdpd. — jeffrey t jordon (@jtjordon) May 8, 2014

@JoshuaChanin @dillonliam i want staffing/equip, citizens want pop and comm. Policing, you want trasparency, perf guys looking at policy, — jeffrey t jordon (@jtjordon) May 8, 2014

Jordon finished with a call to action.

@JoshuaChanin@dillonliam wish we all could say we want great departments, it requires us to do x, it costs y, now lets figure out how.

— jeffrey t jordon (@jtjordon) May 8, 2014

Faulconer is working to juggle the various concerns, said spokesman Charles Chamberlayne. “We put in a new police chief, we put in body cameras, which help on both sides. The mayor’s taken steps to address the issue from all sides in just the last two months.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified the time of the outage and Kevin Mayer’s employer. Mayer is a spokesman for the SDPD.

Catherine Green

Catherine Green was formerly the deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handled daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects.

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