WINTERSVILLE - Radio communication is a key element in police officer safety, but the Ohio State Highway Patrol was having difficulty in talking with other police agencies in Jefferson County.
That prompted the county's 911 system to give the patrol 16 radios that enable troopers to talk to other police officers.
County 911 Director Robert Herrington said 911 had the radios in inventory and the patrol's technical workers installed the radios in 15 trooper cruisers at the Steubenville post. A radio also was installed in a patrol K-9 unit based in Cambridge.
COMMUNICATING – Jefferson County 911 recently provided the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Steubenville Post with 16 radios that will allow state troopers to more easily communicate with other police agencies in the county. Highway Patrol Lt. Christopher Johnson, left, and county 911 Director Robert Herrington show one of the radios installed. -- Mark Law
Herrington said the patrol had been hesitant about installing the radios.
That changed when there was an incident on Feb. 6 in which a juvenile stole a car and several police agencies, including the highway patrol, were involved in the search for the juvenile. The patrol was having difficulty hearing other officers talk about seeing the juvenile.
The next day Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Thomas Charles, Deputy Director Joseph Montgomery and Col. John T. Born, Ohio State Highway Patrol superintendent, were in Jefferson County for Gov. John Kasich's State of the State address in Steubenville. A meeting was held at the county's 911 center about gas drilling in the county.
Herrington said he explained to the state safety officials the problems with the patrol cruisers not having the 911 radios. He said the order then was given to install the radios.
"There was only one interest and that was officer safety," Herrington said. "Everyone is now married into one system."
Troopers now can push one radio button and have the capability to talk to and listen to other police agencies in the county.
Lt. Chirstopher Johnson, Steubenville Post commander, said he and other local troopers have wanted the radio capability for years.
Troopers are alone in their cruisers, as are many other police officers throughout the county. Herrington and Johnson said all officers and troopers are called upon to back each other up.
OSHP has increased its patrols in Steubenville for the past year in response to gunshots and drug dealings. A K-9 unit from Cambridge has been assisting with traffic stops. Communicating with Steubenville's officers has been slowed by radio communications having to be patched through separate dispatchers.
"It will be a tremendous help working in the city," Johnson said.
Johnson added the 911 radios have a scan feature allowing troopers to listen to other communications between police agencies in the county. He said a trooper can hear about a traffic stop in Tiltonsville and happen to be on state Route 7 in the area. The trooper then can decide to stay in the area to offer assistance if needed, he said. In the past, the police officer would have had to contact the patrol's dispatch in St. Clairsville for help. The time delay could place an officer in jeopardy.
"Now we know what is going on in real time instead of one dispatcher calling another dispatcher," he said.
Herrington said the radios were finished being installed about two weeks ago.
"There is radio traffic (between troopers and police officers) every day," Herrington said.
He added troopers also can ask county 911 dispatchers for directional help when going into rural areas. He said the county gets an annual aerial mapping update that will be provided to the highway patrol.
The county's 911 system and the state will be joining financial resources in about 18 months when there is a major upgrade in radio equipment because of a federal mandate to operate on a lower bandwidth. The county and the state are sharing costs, which will save Jefferson County money, Herrington said.
He said he is glad the patrol and 911 have teamed up on the 911 radios.
"Once you do a project like this, it opens opportunities in the future. It is all about officer safety," he said.