Hard to talk? It’s training, not tech

navy yard from wikipedia

Communication problems between law enforcement agencies during September’s Navy Yard shooting were caused not by inadequate technology but by emergency professionals who did not use the technology they had correctly, says the deputy chief of police of Alexandria, Va. 

"Technology is hardly ever the issue,” Deputy Chief Eddie Reyes said as part of a panel on emergency communications at the IJIS Institute National Symposium held four months to the day after the shooting in which 13 people died, including the gunman. “The real problem, as I see it from a practitioner's point-of-view, is the training with that technology and to ensure that it's got a standards-based component."  

Reyes dismissed complaints from some quarters about a lack of interoperability among the multitude of agencies that responded. Instead, he insisted, there were too many policeman and other emergency professionals tuning into the same channel.  

That’s a training problem, Reyes said, not a technology problem. 

"The reason you couldn't get communications across was you have 1,100 responders all trying to [push-to-talk] at the same time,” Eddie Reyes said. “It had nothing to do with interoperability or lack of communications. It had [to do] with lack of discipline." 

Reyes said that D.C., Maryland and Virginia police are at a point where they can communicate effectively with each other. The greater problem at this point is that when they do so, others might be listening in. Encryption is the next challenge to overcome. 

"We do need encryption on a full-time basis around the beltway, but with 21 municipalities, we've got to do it right, we've got to do it in a synchronized manner," Reyes said.

About the Author

Reid Davenport is an FCW editorial fellow. Connect with him on Twitter: @ReidDavenport.

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