County Seeks to Recruit More Agencies Into Costly Radio System

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors wants to get other local law enforcement agencies on board with an expensive radio system the sheriff's department is now using, to help share the costs.

The Board of Supervisors signed off this week on a web- based campaign intended to persuade public safety agencies throughout Riverside County to use an all-digital radio system that the sheriff's department began using at the beginning of the year.

"We have a very effective new system in place, but it has come with significant costs," said Supervisor John Benoit, who, along with Supervisor John Tavaglione, brought forward the idea of promoting the network to surrounding law enforcement and fire agencies.

"We're hoping others will get involved to defray some of these costs and improve inter-operability. That way, we can go from a great to a greater system," Benoit said.

County Chief Information Officer Kevin Crawford told the board that his staff has been working "aggressively" to make municipalities aware of the potential benefits of using the Public Safety Enterprise Communication System, generally referred to as PSEC.

"This is an expensive system. It costs money to keep it up and running," Crawford said. "We're working on finding ways to get other agencies to join without a big upfront cost to them."

Benoit and Tavaglione advocated a website that could serve as a platform to promote PSEC's benefits.

"The county must do a better job sharing information about this state- of-the-art system," the supervisors wrote in their joint proposal. "The first step in doing this is creating an easily accessible web page that contains as much information about PSEC as possible."

The system was activated Jan. 5 -- about a year overdue and more than $20 million over the $143 million budget originally estimated for the network's build-out. The project was initiated in 2007.

Crawford and Undersheriff Colleen Walker have each raved about the new system's functionality.

According to Benoit, the San Jacinto Community College Police Department has signed on as a PSEC user, while the Corona and Riverside police departments have expressed interest in following suit. He said he hoped Coachella Valley law enforcement agencies would consider signing on as partners.

Board Chairman Jeff Stone also urged Crawford and his staff to reach out to the Hemet and Murrieta police departments, as well as tribal police forces in the area.

PSEC replaced a decades-old analog system that county officials said was susceptible to dropouts when deputies went into remote areas.

The network, built by Motorola, is not impeded by terrain, buildings and other "blind spots" that can leave deputies without the means to communicate with dispatchers and each other, according to county officials.

Crawford said the new system boasts 95 percent reliability, meaning that for every 100 communication streams, only 5 will be interrupted or delayed. The PSEC network covers about 86 percent of the 7,300-square-mile county, and users can seamlessly tap four separate voice and data channels, including a 4.9 GHz broadband stream, for real-time delivery of information.

Scanner hobbyists are no longer able to tune in sheriff's communications. The new system utilizes signal encryption that prevents the general public from hearing what's being transmitted or received, much like a satellite channel that cannot be accessed without a passkey, according to the Department of Information Technology.

Officials said PSEC equipment has to be custom programmed before any sheriff's channels can be received.

Crawford told the board that the PSEC web portal should be live by the end of the week.

—City News Service. 

Zygo March 28, 2014 at 12:43 PM
The problem with the public having immediate access to police communications is that criminals are also a part of the public. Often burglars and other 'not spur of the moment' criminals will have scanners in their cars and homes to warn them when the police are dispatched and when they are about to arrive. These scanners are completely legal, but in the wrong hands cause a danger to not only the public but more immediately to responding police.
ChrisG March 28, 2014 at 01:03 PM
@zygo, that argument doesn't hold water. The same can be said about guns, for example. Our law enforcement communications need to be accessible by the public for our own safety. The safety of the public is paramount.
ADB Security March 28, 2014 at 01:30 PM
Thanks for the update Paul G. I'll go back to the county technician and show him your comment. Can you point me to where I can see the AES spec the county is using you mentioned. Also, did you check out the URL I posted? I also heard the county had the crypto switch disabled on the officer radio because they felt it was too complicated to operate and keep in the correct mode by a field officer. Can you comment on that? I previously worked in engineering at Hughes Aircraft on Secure Voice Networks (SVS) for the Navy. But that was a few years ago, I welcome your current input on these types of networks.
ADB Security March 28, 2014 at 02:14 PM
Hello Paul G., what field did you choose for your MASC. Its good to know when you are conversing with an educated person. My point on the RSO comm system is basically the excessive cost to the taxpayer. If you look at the money and cost over runs on the "old" system and all the extra money to make a new "UHF" system work, you will see its just another money pit. The extra repeater sites are due to physics of the 800mhz spectrum. It is basically line of sight. So to get the required coverage based on P25 digital degrade, encryption degrade and line of sight of attenuation of 110db per mile, yes, the county needs to spend millions more of taxpayer dollars to put up more and more repeaters to get back to the coverage of the old system. Just like the "OLD" system they poured millions to "fix", they will be doing the same thing with the "new" system. Just look at the cost over runs already spent on the "NEW" system. History repeats itself in the County of Riverside.


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