Update: 4/9/13 – I’m monitoring the Barnstable Police emergency/ operations radio system and I keep hearing the same troubling things… static or broken/ unreadable transmissions… portables completely malfunctioning, even the normally more powerful cruiser radios are occasionally completely on the blink.
Which sucks for everyone, police and citizens… who cannot afford to have communications on the blink, or even on the “wink…” to any degree whatsoever!
As I’ve been professing for the past two months, our police need radios that function perfectly all of the time!
I know the police administration knows about the fact their radios suck…
… it doesn’t make me as private citizen feel too safe knowing that my 1970 vintage toy walkie-talkies that I have stored in the attic are probably more clear and reliable than what our police officers have to put up with these days!
Stand by for updates, I will not drop this issue until I can hear our beloved patrol officers loud and clear.
February 22, 2013
Imagine you’re a cop. Suddenly a speaker barks out your 3 digit car number, plus additional car numbers, (which means it’s a serious call) and you’re now flying across town, away from ‘The Village,’ towards one of the other seven villages further away from police headquarters.
It’s dark and unfamiliar because you usually patrol Hyannis, ‘The Village.’ Trees flashing white and blue catch the corners of your eyes. You’re moving fast and you’ll be the first on scene! Which is great, accept the other cars are much further away, possibly minutes away. You’re all alone. You slow your breathing, trying to control your heart beats. This is why you joined the force.
Imagine you’re a cop… and you just arrived at a dangerous call, one that may require immediate response and action for the safety of everyone involved. Seconds count, yet backup is minutes away. You attempt to call in your location which you now learn is different from the information originally put out by dispatch.
“3-7-4, 2-2-6… 0-4, be advised, the actual address is 73, not 72…” Which is important info for cops, because in most cases the odd number means the call is on the opposite side of the street.
Nothing. No response. You try again, “3-7-4, 2-2-6…”
Still nothing. You hear screaming from inside the home. Seconds matter. “3-7-4, 2-2-6! 0-4, the actual address is 73” The third time is a charm, sort of…
“2-2-6, you’re broken and unreadable. Did you say you’re off at 72?”
Loud harsh squealing sounds garble the radio speaker, indicating other cars are all trying to talk at the same time. “Cruisers, you’re stepping on each other,” dispatch says trying to regain order on the airway.
“3-7-4, 2-2-3.” Car 223 is your nearest backup and was able to hear part of your last message.
“Go ahead 2-2-3,” says the dispatcher.
“I believe he said he’s 0-4.” “0-4” meaning you had arrived, which you did, but what they don’t all know is that you’re actually across the street at number 73…
“Received,” replies dispatch.
The above situation is not real, but is based on many similar actual situations observed while monitoring the Barnstable Police radio frequency in recent months.
In short, the emergency radio system as it stands right now, sucks! And it’s a very big problem and concern.
Why? Well lets start with the obvious… First of all, if officers are unable to communicate it makes their job significantly more dangerous. There have been times in recent months while listening, where I have actually been in fear for our officers’ safety. Times when dispatch has attempted multiple times to reach a car or portable radio to check on an officer’s safety… and when there was no response back because of ineffective radios, it caused alarm.
Also, ineffective radio communications creates a huge public safety issue. During the course of their patrol it is very likely a Barnstable cop will respond to a call where seconds matter. His or her radio needs to work properly in order to provide timely service. When the radio fails to work properly, which seemingly happens now more often than not, it makes the officer less able to provide the best service possible.
The most important reason this is a huge problem is that it could cause loss of life. Out of all the equipment an officer carries, I believe the radio is the most crucial for his or her safety… as well as for the safety of the people he serves.
I have interacted with officers who also find the current radio problems troubling, and it’s time for the people of our town to make it their problem as well.
I’m not sure if this is funding issue or negligence, but I want people to know it’s an issue.
This morning I left a message with a secretary in the Barnstable Police administration offices, asking for someone to contact me regarding this issue. I will try to bring you answers as soon as I learn more.
Bottom line, it’s of the utmost importance that our police officers have radios that function properly.
UPDATE: It is still uncertain whether recent ‘re-banding’ is the cause of Barnstable Police’s radio woes…. (see “Cape emergency radio system re-banded” on home page.)
UPDATE: 3/25/13 – One thing is for certain, ‘re-banding’ or not, Barnstable’s emergency radio system still sucks! And I’m still faithfully waiting for a response from someone in authority. To be fair, things have been incredibly busy for the Barnstable Police… As always, I will bring you updates as soon as I learn more.
Robert Bastille, Hyannis News Editor