Indiana uniting state police with wireless

If an Indiana State Police trooper runs into an emergency while transporting

a prisoner across the state, he might not be able to reach anyone for help

right away — chances are the radio he uses is incompatible with police radio

systems in other areas.

To correct such a problem, the state is building an integrated wireless

communication system for use by all federal, state and local public safety

officials. Five counties and cities will begin using the voice and data

radio system early next year.

"Our communications have been horrible for forever," Lt. Jeff Wardlow

of the state police superintendent's office said. He explained that law

enforcement and public safety officials are hampered by equipment that is

obsolete and covers only a small area.

The state has invested about $11 million in the program, known as Project

Hoosier Safety Acting for Everyone-Together, or SAFE-T. If the pilot phase

is successful, it will help spur additional appropriations from the state

legislature to build the system's 129-tower infrastructure backbone, Wardlow

said.

The system is projected to cost $80 million and take three years to

complete, Wardlow said. That does not include the cost of buying digital

radios and mobile data displays. Motorola Inc. is the prime contractor for

the project.

The state is working closely with local government officials. Gov. Frank

O'Bannon sponsored several summits that brought together police chiefs,

fire chiefs, sheriffs, emergency medical providers, county emergency management

directors, mayors, county commissioners and others. The idea is not to impose

a solution but to gain voluntary participation, Wardlow said.

Agencies and departments will be able to integrate their existing equipment

or buy newer 800 MHz digital radios.

"Essentially you had every agency trying to buy their own equipment,

put up their own towers, applying for a portion of the [small public safety]

frequency spectrum," Wardlow said. "The goal is to be able to get everybody

to talk to one another, not force everybody to buy new radios."

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