Las Vegas police began a search Monday to replace a $42 million communications system that has drawn complaints about performance since it debuted in 2010.

The department's Fiscal Affairs Committee approved paying Macro Corp. up to $130,000 to consult in building a radio system to replace the technology known as Desert Sky, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported ( ).

A separate contract approved with the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Levine Blaszak Block & Boothby is worth up to $50,000.

Assistant Sheriff Joseph Lombardo called hiring a consultant and law firm the first step in the effort to replace Harris Corp.'s Desert Sky digital voice communication system with a so-called P25 system.

The department hasn't chosen a vendor for the new system but has heard presentations from Motorola, the chief competitor of Harris.

The P25 is seen as more reliable, and the federal standard for law enforcement agencies.

Desert Sky was touted as having expanded channel capacities, enabling advanced data communications for computers in patrol cars, and other features unavailable with the agency's aging analog system.

But officials say the system has suffered dropped calls and dead zones in urban areas, leading to concerns about officer safety.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak expressed concern that the committee hadn't been briefed on the department's radio issues until Monday, and asked why the department was hiring an out-of-town law firm at $500 an hour instead of a cheaper, local firm.

Department attorney Liesl Freedman told Sisolak the firm specialized in similar contracts, and police weren't confident with any local firms.

Hiring a vendor to build a replacement voice transmission system could cost $15 million to $20 million, and take 16 to 24 months.

The department said it expected to hire a vendor and have a contract ready for fiscal board review by February.

Officials say the department plans to retain Desert Sky for data transmission.


Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal,