To stay on the same wavelength as state and county law enforcement agencies, Orem needs to invest nearly $1 million over the next two budget years in a new radio system.
Police Chief Jay Carey told the City Council in a budget work session this week that at the very least, he must have $20,000 to install repeaters to make the current system work for his officers.Carey said the current "old high-band VHF" system is outdated and unreliable and puts line officers at risk because they cannot effectively communicate from an incident site, especially if the officer is in one of several "dead spots" where the signals don't get picked up.
"It's an unsafe system for my people," he said. "If we're over the hill or a mile away, we can't communicate."
Carey is asking for $480,000 toward the purchase of a new 800-megahertz system plus $20,000 for immediate needs. He would need an additional $500,000 in the next budget year to put the radios in the hands of all city employees who rely on radio communication to do their jobs.
In lieu of purchasing the new system, Carey said he could use the money to put laptop computers in patrol cars, thus freeing officers from "desk duty" and keeping them on the streets for their full patrol time.
"If not the 800-megahertz system, then we want to at least get a good high-band system or maybe go to the new cell-phone system," said Carey.
Council members uncomfortable with a blank-check approach were assured by Carey that a specific detailed request would be submitted if the new radio system is not purchased.
Problems ensue when two agencies - such as Orem City and Utah County - have to interact on a dangerous situation such as the trailer-park shooting that occurred several weeks ago. Carey said if the radio systems are not compatible, it becomes very difficult to share vital information.
"In this state, there's been a move to get all (agencies) over to the 800 megahertz system," he said.
Carey said legislation to get funding for state agencies to make the change died the last night of the session. In Utah County, it's merely a matter of finding the dollars to purchase the new system, he said.