Local News

Wake Sheriff's Department Tests New Communication System

Posted February 22, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST

— With a $35 million contract for new emergency radios dead inWake County, theSheriff's Departmentis looking for other options.

Sheriff's Deputies currently use two-way radios. As a temporary substitute, the department is looking to lease a system run byNextel Communications. The device isa phone and a two-way radioall wrapped up in one.

The Nextel system has features similar to the system voted down by county commissioners, including the ability to allow multiple conversations between officers. The current system can only handle one conversation at a time.

"I think it would be a great benefit," says Investigator Gene Woodlief. "I'd like to see the whole department go to it, I really would."

Woodlief is one of the officers testing the system. He says its other big advantage is that it uses a digitally encoded signal, which makes it harder for others to pick up the signal.

Woodlief says the Nextel system came in handy while he was working theJovita Dickerson murder.

"It enabled us to talk freely, and to discuss issues on the radio that we could not do on our standard police radio," Woodlief said.

Yevonne Brannon, the county commissioner who led the charge against the $35 million plan, agrees that this new system is worth checking out.

"I like the way the sheriff is looking at this in a small way, kind of a test case if you would," Brannon said. "Let's look at this technology and let's see if it's improving how our officers are communicating."

If the department was to outfit all 200 sworn officers, the cost would run about $200,000 a year. The cost would further increase if other departments, such as fire or rescue, wanted to use the system as well. However, those cost are significantly lower in the short term than the proposed $35 million system.