More than $50,000 in grant funds will be used for communication equipment improvements

In law enforcement, particularly during emergencies, strong communication is critical to solving whatever problems arise.

Thanks to a recently-awarded Department of Homeland Security grant, the Crook County Sheriff’s Office and Prineville Police Department will upgrade facets of their communication network that need improvement.

“Every year, the OEM (Oregon Office of Emergency Management), through the Department of Homeland Security, depending on population of the county, we were awarded ‘x’ amount of dollars. Last year, it was $12,000,” said Crook County Emergency Manager Dave Dethman. “This year, they didn’t grant ‘x’ amount of dollars. It was a competitive bid statewide.”

Dethman said he was asked to apply for the grant, but told to not get his hopes up. So, he and James Wilson, information technology manager for the City of Prineville, completed an application that would suit current city and county law enforcement needs.

“We didn’t think we were going to get it,” Dethman said.

Despite expectations, they were pleasantly surprised to learn, recently, that their application was accepted.

Most of the $50,991 will go to the Sheriff’s Office to pay for 15 new Motorola car radios. Last year, Dethman said they purchased nine such radios, and with the newest batch, they will replace the radios for every vehicle in their fleet.

The current Kenwood radios are up to 15 years old, and do not have the narrowband capabilities now required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“We can’t even get parts for them,” Dethman remarked.

In addition to the new radios, the Sheriff’s Office will purchase a base station and antenna for their building as well as another antenna for the Crook County Courthouse across the street. In doing so, they should take care of an ongoing issue.

“When the deputies are in the office here, and dispatch calls us and they are trying to give us some information or we need to call them, we can’t transmit out,” said Crook County Sheriff Jim Hensley.

He explained that the metal in the building causes interference, making it difficult to communicate clearly and quickly with the courthouse and dispatch. Such a scenario can not only put the public, but the deputies in danger depending on the situation.

“What we are going to do is improve that,” Hensley continued. “That will be a benefit to us if we are in here and they are working on a report, dispatch calls them for an event, to where they can hear it and understand it better, and go be able to respond quicker.”

The Police Department will get $9,200 of the grant, which they will use to purchase two new radio repeater voter sites.

“When you send a signal out, multiple repeaters may get that signal, but then they have to figure out among themselves who should take it — who has the best, clearest signal,” explained Police Captain Michael Boyd.

They will add one voter site near the Prineville/Crook County Airport, and another one in the Barnes Butte area in hopes of improving radio communications from those areas.

“You have to think of radios like sprinklers in your yard. Every time there is a ‘dry spot,’ you can’t communicate,” Boyd said. “Repeaters are absolutely critical to us.”

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