With the start of the new school year less than two weeks away, some Houston School District police officers will be armed with a better way to communicate. As Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports, HISD now has a brand-new radio system that should put an end to troublesome dead spots that plagued the old system.
“Do you copy me loud and clear?”
“Yes, I copy you loud and clear.”
HISD Police Corporal Darrell Burns has used the old radio system for more than a decade. Because of spotty coverage, officers could often be standing just a few feet away from each other and still not be able to talk over the radio.
“I was a supervisor on night shift and we respond to a lot of burglaries throughout our schools and a lot of times we would come to the school and have an actor in the building and couldn’t communicate with each other. Even though we could see each other, we couldn’t communicate, so this is a powerful tool.”
HISD has purchased about 200 new radios that combines better technology and interoperability with other local law enforcement agencies, something the old system didn’t have. The new system will be part of the Harris County Regional Radio System that connects departments from several surrounding counties. This is HISD Police Chief Charles Wiley.
“All we need to do is acquire the equipment and we can join together with them and we can have that interoperability. What you actually have is you have officers who can switch channels and they can talk directly to Harris County. They can talk directly to some of the constable’s offices. They can talk directly to a lot of law enforcement agencies throughout this region including Galveston, Montgomery County and some agencies like that.”
The new system has more receiver sites and back-up power in case a storm interrupts service. Wiley says it only makes sense for the largest school district in Texas to have a system that allows officers to talk to each other and other agencies.
“Imagine the worse-case scenario in the city of Houston for example that they had in New York with 9-11 where they had multiple agencies responding to a critical incident like the World Trade Center towers. Imagine that they can’t talk to each other because that’s exactly what happened at the World Trade Center, where the fire department and police departments were operating on different channels and they couldn’t talk to one another. The service delivery model was weakened by that and they were less able to respond in a timely way and in an efficient way.”
The new radio system cost the district about $800,000. It’s still not completely ready to use, but should be during the upcoming school year.