Local News

Interagency Radio System Helped Police in Cooper's Capture

Posted November 30, 2007

— When Samuel James Cooper was taken into custody after a bank robbery and a chase last week, three law enforcement agencies were in on his capture.

All of the personnel from those agencies knew everything the others were doing thanks to a radio system they call VIPER. The radios allowed law officers to do something this time that they had been unable to do in the past.

It also was something that police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel in New York City could not do on 9/11 – talk to one another by radio.

“All agencies were able to monitor what was taking place inside the building with the search. We could hear the helicopter and what they were seeing from up above,” said Lt. Everett Clendenin, a state Highway Patrol spokesman.

“It was real valuable,” said Garner Police Sgt. Joe Binns.

The bank robbery and Cooper's arrest happened in Garner. Binns said the ability to communicate with other agencies, including Highway Patrol troopers, Wake County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Fuquay-Varina police, at that scene saved time and resources.

“Before, you'd have to find somebody that had a radio that could talk to the person you want to talk to,” Binns explained. “Now, it's just the touch of a button.”

Valuable as it is to emergency personnel on the ground, the nearly $190 million VIPER system has a troubled past when it comes to funding.

State lawmakers denied an $11 million request this year for VIPER transmitters and tower construction. A federal grant ended up covering the costs.

Another debate about money could come in the Legislature. Right now 73 of the state's 100 counties have the capability to implement the VIPER system. It would take another $100 million for the infrastructure for the remaining 27 counties not et on line.

The successful chase and capture of Cooper could help the uncovered counties make a case for funding.

“We believe it made everything safer,” Clendenin said.

State public safety leaders are actively pursuing funding for the system. VIPER stems from the system’s formal name – Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders. They worry that if it takes too many years to implement VIPER, the technology could be outdated by the time the entire state is covered.

The Highway Patrol has been the lead agency in implementing the VIPER system. Its operation is akin to a cell-phone system, with computers directing signals to the appropriate radio towers based on where radios “tell” the system they are. If needed, a state trooper on the Outer Banks could talk to one in Charlotte by selecting the appropriate channel. VIPER would connect the two through their local towers.

Another example of the system’s utility is large events such as happen in Chapel Hill on Halloween and if the University of North Carolina’s basketball team wins the national collegiate championship. Police from numerous agencies are brought to the town, and the VIPER system allows them to have common radio communications.


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  • leo-nc Dec 1, 2007

    "Since I'm in a public safety profession, I can say it will be great to be able to communicate with the Police directly, rather than using a dispatcher as a middle man. It's my understanding that Raleigh PD is the only agency in this county that hasn't switched over yet, but it's coming."

    They are simulcasting on the system now, and have some radios on the system as well. I don't know how long the transition will take, but it's in process as we speak.

    As an aside, during the robbery the other day in Garner, communications was VERY smooth. SHP, Garner and Wake SO were all able to communicate with each other seamlessly.

  • leo-nc Dec 1, 2007

    "its called a NEXTEL and it only costs $45.00/month. HELLO.....$190 million for something that will be used a few times.....I'll take 2"

    There are a million reasons that we can't use Nextel as a primary radio system. Mainly for law enforcement there is no guarantee of priority over regular users of the system. They have no backup generators at many of their sites and they don't heave nearly the coverage needed to implement. In addition, those little Nextel handsets could in no way handle the conditions we sometimes put our radios through.

  • richard2 Dec 1, 2007

    When will they turn him loose on us again?

  • OnDaRoof Dec 1, 2007

    Nextel? Are you kidding me? First, Nextel is unreliable. I was a customer for 7 years, then finally got rid of them due to poor service. Next, do you think a Nextel will hold up inside a fire? Don't forget, this system is being used by ALL public safety entities. Nextel is great for the construction industry, as well as for the annoying people that talk on their walkie- talkies out loud while in a store. Put that thing on private!!

    Since I'm in a public safety profession, I can say it will be great to be able to communicate with the Police directly, rather than using a dispatcher as a middle man. It's my understanding that Raleigh PD is the only agency in this county that hasn't switched over yet, but it's coming.

    Steve, I agree with your post, for once!! I've used both systems, there are dead spots with both. However, I can say, I spoke with someone in Wake Forest from Apex, and it was crystal clear w/ VIPER.

    Good job NCSHP, Wake S.O. GPD and FVPD with making the system work

  • twc Dec 1, 2007

    At least one of cooper's family members knew he killed one of the victims. And knew the victim. Two or three days later another victim was killed. If the family member had come forward that victim may not have been killed. We should not be satisfied with just the shooter; all involved criminally should answer. We're watching and waiting for justice. Sympathy is owed only to the victims--not the murderer's family!

  • Steve Crisp Nov 30, 2007

    The ViPER system, or at least its concept as an interoperable, digitally-based communication system, is simply astounding. Perpahs the two most critical issues involving VIPER that are solved by the system are the ability to communicate over long distances wihout dead spots and the clarity of the transmission.

    Under the existing analog system that Raleigh uses, there are locations in town where radios do not work. And if you are on the north side of town trying to communicate with units on the south side it is often impossible. VIPER is also set up to more easily scramble communications for covert activities.

    And the argument that one day the technology will be obsolete does not hold water. All technologies will eventually be obsolete; that does not mean that you wait forever for the perfect system. You impliment what is available, use it to the fullest extent for as long as you can, then one day consider switching over.

  • DrunkSober Nov 30, 2007

    Sounds like this story was written by the marketing department of the VIPER radios.More fluff,little details of the cost of how they arrive at 190 million dollars.I suspect there is some steals in the amount,someone screwing the state.

  • songdemon Nov 30, 2007

    its called a NEXTEL and it only costs $45.00/month. HELLO.....$190 million for something that will be used a few times.....I'll take 2

  • egriffin8278 Nov 30, 2007

    Corrections to my comment just posted. It should have read only two vendors make the radios that will function with full capability on the system. I also wish to add that it would be extremely beneficial to be on the system, and I believe it is a quality system, it is just the cost, and inability to have competitive bidding on the equipment that is the most distressing about the project.

  • houdie1031 Nov 30, 2007

    I don't see the ballgames and Halloween parties as deserving of all this attention (tax dollars) from law enforcement; BUT I do think stopping a "serial killer" such as Cooper is worth the VIPER. Plus there are potential disasters in which law enforcement will need to be able to communicate. As far as tax dollars, maybe the First Responder Programs need to be re-evaluated. There sure are lots of emergency vehicles that respond to small emergencies. Thanks for listening to me.