UPDATED: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 12:45pm
McLennan County, TX — The McLennan County Sheriff's Office says it's time to get with the times. To do so, they are upgrading "the lifelines of their department", which are their radios. An analog system has been in place for decades, but now the outdated equipment must go.
"We've known this was coming for a long time. And, it's even been described as 'radio Armageddon'," said McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara.
Antiquated radio systems will soon be a thing of the past for the sheriff's office. A nearly half-million dollar purchase through Motorola will fund the switch from analog to the modernized digital radio systems. The sheriff says Motorola has expressed that the systems currently in place will no longer be serviced by them in the coming months, which could be costly if something were to break and the department had to find a way to make repairs on the old equipment by other means.
"Radio communication is the lifeline of any police department or sheriff's office. And, without that, we don't know where to respond or who to respond to," said McNamara.
Two more towers will also be added, along with one that is already in place, which now makes three towers. This will increase patrol coverage in the area. In some areas of the county, there are "dead spots" that have no communication.
"If one tower goes down, we lose a tower, we still have two more. Whereas, now, if a tower goes down, we have a real problem," said McNamara.
The 9/11 attacks, McNamara says, showed the kinks in communication between law enforcement agencies. Many departments are on their own systems and cannot communicate effectively, therefore hindering their abilities to assist each other. But, this new system, is set to allow the sheriff's office to reach Waco PD and other nearby agencies. McNamara says several surrounding counties have expressed interest to follow suit.
"There's going to be a way to tie in with the smaller communities, even if they're not on the new digital," said McNamara.
About 150 new walkie-talkies and car radios will be implemented by this summer.
"We have to keep that line of communication. And, this will increase it so much," said McNamara.
In of the "very attractive package" that Motorola offered the department, no payments will be required for the next year. So, this purchase won't hurt the county's already tight budget. Payment for the new devices will be budgeted in fiscal year 2014. The cost of the new radios is one tenth of the proposal given to commissioners last year.