By TODD KLEFFMAN
11:29 AM EST, December 7, 2012
Looking through the logs for the Boyle County 911 Center, it appears Danville police officers are having difficulty communicating with each other and dispatchers.
From Nov. 21 through Wednesday, there are 22 instances noted in the logs where officers in the field could not speak with dispatchers, had transmissions cut short or simply could not be heard over their radios, most often walkie talkies.
"Radio cut out while giving descriptions," states a log entry on a Nov. 21 incident where officers were dispatched to Secretariat Drive for a domestic dispute, possibly involving a weapon.
"Having difficulty getting out on his talkie or hearing dispatch. His radio would not transmit or receive at all at Chill's," states another log entry from Nov. 27 where an officer responded to a subject needing help at the Lexington Avenue convenience store.
Police Chief Tony Gray and Robin Parks, the center's director of communications, both say that the occasional breakdowns in communications stem from the switch to a digital system from analog that was made in July.
"It's not a breakdown, it's more little blurps here and there," Parks said. "We're still tweaking it."
The problems were first noticed about two months ago, Gray said, and officers and dispatchers were recently directed to document each time they had trouble with their radios in order to determine if there is a pattern to the glitches that could be identified and addressed.
Parks and Gray said that part of the problem is that radio transmissions that came across weak or static-filled on the analog system are simply not broadcast at all with digital.
"With digital, it's either crystal clear or nothing," Parks said.
Gray said that under the old system, some information could be relayed even if the connection was faint or full of static.
"Before, you could usually make out a '10-4' or something that gave you an idea of what was going," he said. "Now, those calls don't come through at all."
The inability of officers to communicate in certain locations and situations does raise safety concerns, Gray said, but so far there have been no "significant" incidents where anyone was placed in peril because of the communication gaps.
In situations with the potential for danger such as domestic violence calls, two officers are dispatched and one can usually make contact with dispatch, either with a mobile radio or the one in the cruiser, Gray said.
In a pinch, officers can switch to another frequency used by the sheriff's department or one used by fire and emergency responders and get through that way, the chief explained.
There have been occasions where another officer had to be sent to check on an officer who was out on a call but unable to report back to dispatch, but those have been rare, Gray said.
"It's not like we're having to run all over town checking on officers," he said.
Parks explained that Danville police are assigned one frequency, the sheriff's office and law enforcement in Perryville and Junction City another, and fire and emergency medical services yet another. All three frequencies have experienced similar troubles since the switch to digital, she said, but the problems surface more frequently with city police simply because the agency receives a much higher volume of calls.
The cause of the glitches remain a mystery.
Gray said part of the trouble may be cause by interference from other communication networks such as the one used by Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center.
Parks said the matter might be addressed by purchasing additional repeaters or repositioning existing equipment on antennae to achieve better coverage.
"It could be solar flares on some days," Gray said.
The effort to document the disruptions in communications might show a pattern and point to a solution. Southern Communications in Lexington is working with local officials to figure how the problem can be fixed, Gray said.
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