RIVERSIDE – The Board of Supervisors signed off today on a web- based campaign intended to persuade public safety agencies throughout Riverside County to use an all-digital radio system that the sheriff’s department began using at the beginning of the year.
”We have a very effective new system in place, but it has come with significant costs,” said Supervisor John Benoit, who, along with Supervisor John Tavaglione, brought forward the idea of promoting the network to surrounding law enforcement and fire agencies.
”We’re hoping others will get involved to defray some of these costs and improve inter-operability. That way, we can go from a great to a greater system,” Benoit said.
County Chief Information Officer Kevin Crawford told the board that his staff has been working ”aggressively” to make municipalities aware of the potential benefits of using the Public Safety Enterprise Communication System, generally referred to as PSEC.
”This is an expensive system. It costs money to keep it up and running,” Crawford said. ”We’re working on finding ways to get other agencies to join without a big upfront cost to them.”
Benoit and Tavaglione advocated a website that could serve as a platform to promote PSEC’s benefits.
”The county must do a better job sharing information about this state- of-the-art system,” the supervisors wrote in their joint proposal. ”The first step in doing this is creating an easily accessible web page that contains as much information about PSEC as possible.”
The system was activated Jan. 5 — about a year overdue and more than $20 million over the $143 million budget originally estimated for the network’s build-out. The project was initiated in 2007.
Crawford and Undersheriff Colleen Walker have each raved about the new system’s functionality.
According to Benoit, the San Jacinto Community College Police Department has signed on as a PSEC user, while the Corona and Riverside police departments have expressed interest in following suit. He said he hoped Coachella Valley law enforcement agencies would consider signing on as partners.
Board Chairman Jeff Stone also urged Crawford and his staff to reach out to the Hemet and Murrieta police departments, as well as tribal police forces in the area.
PSEC replaced a decades-old analog system that county officials said was susceptible to dropouts when deputies went into remote areas.
The network, built by Motorola, is not impeded by terrain, buildings and other ”blind spots” that can leave deputies without the means to communicate with dispatchers and each other, according to county officials.
Crawford said the new system boasts 95 percent reliability, meaning that for every 100 communication streams, only 5 will be interrupted or delayed. The PSEC network covers about 86 percent of the 7,300-square-mile county, and users can seamlessly tap four separate voice and data channels, including a 4.9 GHz broadband stream, for real-time delivery of information.
Scanner hobbyists are no longer able to tune in sheriff’s communications. The new system utilizes signal encryption that prevents the general public from hearing what’s being transmitted or received, much like a satellite channel that cannot be accessed without a passkey, according to the Department of Information Technology.
Officials said PSEC equipment has to be custom programmed before any sheriff’s channels can be received.
Crawford told the board that the PSEC web portal should be live by the end of the week.