Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office receives communications upgrade

Published 5:02 pm Wednesday, June 24, 2015

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The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office recently completed phase one of its transition to 100-percent digital communications with a  purchase of 16 new handheld radios.

According to Captain Chris West, the department’s old five-watt radios were limited by terrain and geographical location, and could transmit a signal only a few miles even in ideal conditions.

Coupled with a new digital signal repeater, which is to be placed atop a water tower near Lowndes Academy, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office communications network will cover approximately 97 percent of the county.

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West said that the reception for the new radios has been strong among users within the department.

“It’s been pretty good.  Everybody has gotten a chance to play with them and see the strong points and weak points,” West said.

“And traditionally, everything was totally analog. 

Well, communications are more complex than that now.  You have select groups—deputies can talk directly one-on-one without everyone else being involved with that conversation.  It’s just remarkable.”

West added that the 16 new radios make communication a cinch among deputies, even outclassing traditional cell phone use in most situations.

“Everyone nowadays has a cell phone, but to actually use a cell phone you have to pick it up and dial a number, and you may or may not have a signal depending on who your carrier is,” West added.  “These radios basically do everything a cell phone does without having to dial a number.”

The 16 new radios, as well as the addition of a new signal repeater in Lowndesboro, only accounts for the first half of the plan to transition the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office into the digital age.

The county’s preexisting repeater, located in the Collirene community, was also repurposed for digital transmissions as a part of phase one.

Phase two will see the replacement of units in vehicles with newer digital versions.

The second step of the plan has yet to be carried out, however, as there is still the matter of financing the mobile replacements.

“Because everything is so expensive, we have to take inventory of everything we have—our old handheld units and our old mobile units,” West said. 

“We want to bundle all of this together and sell, and once we find a vendor, then we’ll take that funding and commit to our new units.”