Law Enforcement Tragedy Sparks Major Communication Changes

Tuesday, September 2nd 2014, 6:54 pm
By: News 9

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Oklahoma City Police paused to remember two of their own this Labor Day weekend, killed in the line of duty 14 years ago.

Both agencies lost men in a head-on crash because they had no way to communicate with each other, but the deaths brought about huge technological changes for law enforcement in Oklahoma.

The tragedy sparked an effort to get a statewide radio system in place for all public safety agencies to talk and listen to each other.

An anniversary final call went out over police radios early Sunday morning, marking the 14 years that have passed since a deadly collision involving Oklahoma City police officer Jeffrey Rominger and OHP trooper Matt Evans.

"All officers, standby to honor one of our fallen, a moment of silence for Officer Jeffrey Rominger,” the radio message read.

After a moment of silence, the message continued, “August 31st of 2000, Officer Jeffrey Rominger gave his life in the line of duty while pursuing a suspect. It has been and will continue to be our honor to carry on the service for which he gave his life. After 14 years, he is not forgotten. Godspeed Officer Rominger, you are deeply missed brother.”

Rominger was pursuing a wrong-way driver that night and he collided with Evans, killing them both. The agencies discovered the officers had no way of communicating with each other on their radios.

"Obviously we got the radios because of that horrific accident that happened in 2000,” said OHP Lt. Betsy Randolph.

The painful loss led to a statewide radio system. OHP can now talk and listen to police departments and sheriff's offices on one of three radios, a low-band radio, an 800 MHz system and the city-county radio for surrounding areas.

OCPD can do the same with OHP and other departments thanks to its $32-million radio system. The system is a game changer for law enforcement, developed out of tragedy.

“It was a tragic event and obviously there is no going back from that, but we can learn from those mistakes,” Randolph told News 9.

OHP says eight of its 13 troops across the state have the high-powered 800 MHz system. They expect to outfit the remaining troops with the better system in the near future.