LAS VEGAS--The City of Mesa, Ariz., is in the process of completing a transition over to Project 25, joining with neighboring Phoenix on a multi-year project initiated in 1996 to build a regional interoperable P25 network. A representative from the city shared their experiences in acquiring and deploying the technology over a nine-year period during the Project 25 Symposium at the 2005 IWCE conference and sponsored by the Project (25) Technology Interest Group.

“We actually did this [with the city of Phoenix] on a handshake agreement up until a year and a half ago, with the only formal intergovernmental agreements existing [before then] for tower usage,” said Joe Noce, project manager. Initial skepticism and reaction to adopting P25 was extremely intense within the local public safety community at the start of the process. “We invited a retired Arizona Supreme Court Justice to referee an open forum in 1997,” commented Noce. “Vendors were invited to bring their issues forward.”

“When we started this [project], we knew we were going to have a culture shock,” said Noce. “User participation is a must. Having open minds and changing the way you do business is a must. The police don’t like to change. I’m an old cop, and I don’t like to change.” Dealing with the city of Phoenix has been easier than some of the implementation ideas from in-house focus groups. Noce says anytime an issue has come up between the two cities, all he had to do was “make a phone call” to his counterpart. Focus groups, on the other hand, started asking for features they didn’t need. “People wanted 16 talk groups when before they had two.”

After a number of years of discussion and planning, the initial infrastructure bid was completed in 2001, with a separate bid for user equipment released in 2004. “We were surprised at the response. With four vendors responding, we say a 40 to 45 percent discount on subscriber and access equipment,” said Noce. Today, Mesa has 1200 portable P25 handsets and 500 mobile sets installed in police vehicles and the Phoenix police department is between 70 to 90 percent complete in deploying 3500 handsets and 1464 mobile terminals. Noce expects the Mesa fire departments and municipality to complete their complementary P25 deployment by July 2005.

Mesa is currently conducting P25 interoperability testing with their federal law enforcement counterparts. “We do a lot of things with [Immigrations Customs Enforcement], DEA, the FBI,” stated Noce. Early tests of the P25 system were a bit more informal. “We did one of those ‘Can you hear me now?’ tests, but that gets kind of old when you have to cover 400 square miles. We played Trivial Pursuit during testing, but that got old. Finally, we put National Public Radio on the system.”