The North Bay Police Service should upgrade its radio system from analog to digital to help protect officer safety, says Sgt. Rick Dubeau, vice president of the North Bay Police Association.
Dubeau passed the message on Tuesday to North Bay Police Services Board chairman William Ferguson at the regular monthly meeting of the board.
He also said the association wants the service to give priority to a digital radio system rather than mobile work stations for police vehicles.
“They have a committee that’s been formed and it’s looking at how they can implement the mobile work stations, yet they’re not talking about transforming our analog radios to digital, which was the initial thing,” Dubeau said following the meeting.
“And now the priorities seem to have switched to mobile work stations.”
Chief Paul Cook said a committee, chaired by deputy chief Al Williams, has been formed to look at mobile work stations.
But Williams will also be preparing a report, expected early next year, on upgrading the radio system
Radios, Dubeau said, are the “lifeline” to the police communications centre.
“Again, it’s officer safety, we had a scenario where our officers were searching for someone on Hwy 11 North by the psychiatric hospital and they couldn’t communicate with each other or with the communications centre,” Dubeau said.
“With digital capabilities the officers could be safer, but digital radios seem to be taking a sidebar to the mobile work stations.”
Cook said the difficulty lies in the costs associated from switching from analog to digital encrypted radios.
“You can’t do it in stages. We have a number of main sets in our cruises and upwards of 70 or 80 portable radios,” Cook said.
“I was talking to the chief in Guelph recently and he was advising me they were spending approximately $7,500 for each of their portable radios, so the costs are very high.”
The police services board already has an unspent $200,000 in capital funding it received from the city, and it will be asking for another $100,000 for the 2005 budget.
“This is capital funding we’re talking about and we want to make sure we spend
it cautiously and get the best bang for our buck,” Cook said.
In the meantime the service has installed a portable transceiver to try to improve radio coverage in dead zones.