After months of planning and testing, Sumner’s police radio frequencies are ready to move off VHF to 800 mHz, the final step to full integration with Puyallup dispatch.
The switch from VHF to 800 mHz came sooner than initially anticipated, said Sumner Police Chief John Galle.
“We realized that we could not communicate with Puyallup under our current VHF systems. Originally we gave ourselves a year to transfer radio over to 800 mHz, but it became critical to do it sooner,” said Galle.
Because of the necessity to communicate across Puyallup, Sumner and Bonney Lake, moved to the new frequency on April 7. Galle said that radio testing has been successful, with a strong signal as far away as Auburn to the north and Graham to the south.
A useful radio feature, said Galle, is that each signal is unique to the assigned officer, so they don’t have to state their name every time they call dispatch.
“If an officer goes down and he is able to turn on his portable radio, just for a second, dispatch can identify who he is,” said Galle. “We will still identify ourselves over the radio, but now the dispatch employees know who is calling them without having verbal confirmation.”
Sumner purchased 18 mobile car-mounted radios and 15 portable ones, totaling to a city cost of $127,678, with approximately $25,000 more to spend. Each mobile radio costs $3,886 and portables cost $3,480. The city budgeted $119,040 for the switch and $43,217 came from a state emergency management grant, just approved last week. It's a reimbursement grant, so Sumner will purchase the additional equipment needed and will get that money back, plus the $8,638 it already spent overbudget.
As part of the interlocal agreement, Puyallup supplied 10 radios not included in Sumner’s cost – their contribution was an “essential” part of equipping the department, said Sumner Police administrator Jason Wilson.
Sumner decided to join Puyallup and Bonney Lake dispatch to better communicate across city lines and provide more support to officers. It allows police to be more efficient in their work, especially when chasing a suspect through multiple towns, or if an officer finds themselves in need of backup in the field.
“Communicating with our neighbors is a critical part of our job,” said Galle. “It’s our duty to the citizens to work together, for everyone’s benefit.”