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Wireless Communications and Interoperability Among State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1998
12 pages
Publication Series
Recognizing that routine police work requires effective coordination and communication with other police agencies, fire departments, and emergency medical services, this 1997 survey collected data from State and local law enforcement agencies nationwide on their current and planned use of communications equipment and services and their experiences with interoperability.
Starting in February 1997, 10-page questionnaires were mailed to all agencies that employed more than 100 sworn officers and to a stratified random sample of smaller agencies across the country. By the end of the data collection phase in July 1997, 1,334 agencies had responded, for an overall response rate of 48 percent. Findings revealed interoperability was common, with 82 percent of agencies having at least one channel dedicated solely for use with other organizations. Most agencies were confident of their ability to handle routine situations, but many agencies experienced serious obstacles, particularly when trying to communicate with agencies beyond their local network or when operating in different frequency bands. Limitations in funding and frequency incompatibility were the biggest interoperability problems. About 35 percent of agencies thought Federal or State mandates were needed to ensure interoperability, but most agencies believed local planning best met their needs. Discrepancies in State and local perceptions about the existence of formal State interoperability plans suggested a need for more dialogue between State and local agencies. Most agencies had conventional analog systems and operated in high VHF bands. Most of the radio spectrum was used for voice transmissions, although the number of agencies devoting channels to data only transmissions was increasing. Dead spots and outdated equipment were the most common problems with radio systems. More than half the agencies that complained about outdated equipment (older than 10 years) planned to replace or upgrade their radio systems. Channel congestion, a serious problem for almost half the agencies, was much less of a problem for agencies with trunked systems. The use of voice and data security measures was increasing in all agencies. 10 notes and 9 exhibits

Date Published: January 1, 1998