Radio communication issues that have plagued law enforcement in Franklin County for years could now be solved, thanks to a federal grant.
The money from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will buy new radios for members of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Connell Police Department and Port of Pasco, announced Sheriff Jim Raymond on Monday.
The radios will allow the agencies to communicate on the same frequency as the rest of law enforcement officials in the Tri-Cities.
The sheriff’s office and Connell police have used a VHF radio system, while other law enforcement agencies in the Tri-Cities communicate using an 800 megahertz system.
“From a deputy’s standpoint, it’s just huge,” Raymond said. “Right now as it exists, Connell police, the Port of Pasco and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office are isolated and have no ability to talk with our law enforcement partners in the region.”
The grant will give the agencies almost $634,000 to buy the dual-band radios, Raymond said. The three Franklin County agencies will have to put up more than $211,000.
The money will allow the agencies to outfit each officer and deputy with mobile and car radios. Law enforcement can switch back and forth between the VHF and 800 megahertz systems, ensuring that pockets of Franklin County where only VHF works remain covered.
“Hopefully by first of the year, we can get started by purchasing and implementing (the radios),” Raymond said.
The communication problems between law enforcement on different sides of the river reached a boiling point in July 2014 during a standoff at a Pasco home.
An armed man was firing high-powered rounds in his neighborhood and responding law enforcement had trouble communicating with each other, putting officers in the line of fire. Officials said a Kennewick officer was almost struck by a bullet because of the communication issues.
Raymond is hopeful the new radios will prevent that scenario from ever happening again.
“Now we will be able to listen to all the traffic, so when critical events take place, we can communicate,” he said.