The Ottumwa Courier

Wapello County

June 26, 2013

Switch to digital leaves some police scanners in the dust

OTTUMWA — As local law enforcement agencies begin the switch from analog to digital communication, some police scanners will become somewhat obsolete.

The Ottumwa Police Department and Wapello County Sheriff's Office need to switch to digital frequencies in order to better communicate with each other, but that means the scanners found in many Ottumwans' homes will no longer be able to pick up on local scanner traffic.

But Wapello County Emergency Management coordinator Josh Stevens said analog-only scanners will still work with other agencies in the county.

"For an agency to move from analog to digital, they have to replace all of their equipment," Stevens said. "[Digital] P25 makes it so that in the future, they're inter-operable between different platforms of communication, which is a big push, especially after 9/11."

P25, or Project 25, "is the standard for the design and manufacture of inter-operable digital two-way wireless communications products," according to the Project 25 Technology Interest Group's website.

This ensures that no matter the brand of equipment, both can be programmed to communicate with each other, Stevens said.

"No matter what equipment they buy, they'll be able to talk to someone else if they're P25," he said.

The two departments' decisions to switch to P25 were not made to block the public from listening to scanner traffic, he said.

"It's just a new type of communication," he said. "Digital P25, from our propagation study, showed to have increased coverage, which was one of the main things we focused on when moving the equipment. That's why we did studies on various locations in the county and Ottumwa for the new tower site. We wanted to make sure that our push was to increase coverage for our first responders, and P25 showed on the studies to give us better coverage."

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