Honolulu Police Department’s Controversial 800 Megahertz Telecommunications System Passes Audit

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This audit was conducted pursuant to Resolution 03-70, CD1, Requesting a Performance Audit of the City and County of Honolulu’s 800 Megahertz Telecommunications System, which was adopted by the Honolulu City Council on September 24, 2003.

In the past, the system was the subject of controversy due to previous problems such as system glitches, outages, and voice and data transmission problems. The controversy also involved its suitability for daily police operations. The city council resolution requested an audit to determine the causes of the problems that occurred with the system, solutions to the problems, and remedies available to the city for the recovery of public funds expended to solve the problems.


The primary objective of the 800 MHz Telecommunications System is to provide uninterrupted, high quality digital voice communications in support of daily police field operations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is designed to provide secure communications, increase the availability of information, and help assign police resources more efficiently and effectively.

The system is a computer-based radio system consisting of multiple channels and features which allow users to communicate simultaneously across the entire system, within an organization, or within small pre-defined talk groups. The system supports a large number of users by sharing, allocating, and reassigning radio channels as needed (trunking) rather than providing individual channels.

The system includes a microwave backbone consisting of radio towers, facilities, and radio equipment rooms located around the island of O‘ahu and components located in radio equipment rooms nearby transmission towers, and at command and control sites. Our review and analysis focused on system implementation, implementation costs, and ongoing operational and maintenance costs to determine the true costs of the system and its operations.

Although the system currently is multi-departmental in usage, we limited our review and assessment of the management and operational effectiveness of the system to the Honolulu Police Department’s utilization during the period FY2005-06 through FY2007-08. The audit was performed in accordance with generally accepted governmental auditing standards.

Our audit results indicate a flawed design and poor management over the design and implementation of the 800 megahertz telecommunications system resulted in cost overruns and system problems.

Despite its controversial past, the 800 megahertz telecommunications system is currently reliable. As the system reaches the end of its lifecycle, management faces challenges related to continued operation and maintenance of the system. The city’s role and acceptance of the system along with the passage of time limits the potential recovery of public funds used to resolve the system development and installation problems.

We recommended the following:

1. The Department of Information Technology and the Honolulu Police Department should use existing databases to prepare management reports that can be used to assess and improve the effectiveness of their preventive maintenance programs, and make key decisions regarding the system as it reaches the end of its lifecycle.

2. The Department of Information Technology and the Honolulu Police Department should perform a comprehensive risk assessment of the 800 MHz radio system so that informed decisions can be made regarding the need to replace the system or to extend the life of the system, including improving support facilities and continued operation of the system.
3. The Mayor should ensure the priorities for telecommunications system improvements (including new equipment, upgrades, and site renovations) are coordinated among the police, fire, emergency services and information technology department staff, to ensure
public safety communications needs are met.

4. The Mayor should ensure the existing 800 MHz system or its replacement are properly funded.
5. The Managing Director should direct the Department of Design and Construction to provide the support needed by the Department of Information Technology to plan, design, construct, and manage the projects related to improving and/or replacing the existing 800 MHz system.

6. The Department of Information Technology and the Honolulu Police Department should ensure that current implementation of system-related projects are controlled by the project manager, including project review, in-scope work, project cost accounting; and fulfilling budgeting and procurement requirements.

The city departments generally agreed with the audit recommendations.





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