Yes, the lowly scanner, the bane of Radioman’s repair existence and the scourge of communications technology, came to the rescue of mighty interoperability.
At the APCO national conference in Little Rock, AR, back in 1989, Dave Wooldridge, then a senior VP for Motorola, led a high-powered presentation focused on that firm’s trunking radio products. The component of the presentation that I recall most vividly, however, dealt with the flexibility of the then-new Centracom II console system in meeting the needs of agency “interoperability.”
That was my first exposure to the use of “that word,” as applied to public safety communications systems and operations. Ah, we long for the simpler times.
As with other topics presented in this column, I have opinions about “interoperability” — about the word itself and about the oft-tangled web woven for the benefit of proprietary-protocol radio peddlers and the erstwhile rescuers of our communications systems’ failings.
As for the word itself, when uttered slowly and with a slightly furrowed brow, it appears to bestow an aura of sincere concern upon the speaker. (After all, we must know what we’re doing — we’re “for” interoperability.) As for the marketeers offering products to provide us with the benefits of “interoperability,” I’m far less certain — or trusting — of alleged improvements or advantages.
It’s not that I’m opposed to technological progress. I am a smidge suspicious, however, about any profit-driven firm offering a high-priced proprietary solution to which we must marry successive years’ allegiance and budgets. So, what’s Radioman to do?
Plenty, it turns out, and at minimal cost, too.
Recently there was a daylight, Saturday bank robbery at a local savings and loan in our city. The victim gave a great description of the suspect and his vehicle, and the information was quickly relayed to the communications centers in the area. An alert corporal with the nearby Leawood, KS, Police Department heard the information, spotted the vehicle, gave chase and apprehended the (alleged) crook (who doesn’t even get to keep the money).
This was a textbook case for interoperability: Didn’t we do a good job? Aren’t we smart? Well, the answers are “yes” to the former question and “not exactly” to the latter because the plot thickens. It turns out that the motivated Leawood copper didn’t hear the pickup information on his dispatch radio. He heard our city put the call out directly on his scanner. Yes, the lowly scanner, the bane of Radioman’s repair existence and the scourge of communications technology, came to the rescue of mighty interoperability.
Understand that the scanner didn’t actually catch the crook during the foot chase after he wrecked the stolen car. It didn’t tackle and arrest him after he slowed down in the summer heat, either. However, consider the pedigree of Mr. Scanner: all-bands, all-protocols and all for less than $240. No, it doesn’t transmit, but what a blessing that it receives and that someone was listening.
With this sort of reliable, cheap and simple tool available, public safety can take a big step toward “improving interagency operations” (which is really just cooperation and the sharing of information that permits us to help each other out). By the way, can everyone else hear what your officers are saying?
Dunford, MRT’s public safety consultant, is technical services consultant for the Lenexa, KS, Police Department. He is a member of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials — International. You can email Dunford at [email protected].