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The city’s police department will receive 20 new digital radios without charge from Cuyahoga County as part of an effort to switch local police departments to a new radio system that allows for improved communication between departments.
The new radios, which use the state’s Multi-Agency 2 Way Radio Communication System, are valued at more than $60,000, according to a resolution approved by City Council accepting the radios. The county purchased the Motorola radios using federal homeland security grants. Cuyahoga County cities have been applying to the county for the radios, which are being distributed to reduce the cost to local communities for switching radio systems.
“This only provides a part of the radios we need,” said North Olmsted police Detective Chuck Fioritto.
The city needs a total of 40 to 43 digital radios before it can switch to the new communications system. It may qualify for some additional free radios from the county, but it also may end up purchasing some units. The city is still looking at its options, said Detective Robert Wagner.
The MARCS system uses a series of towers located across the state that allow any department on the MARCS network to communicate with any other department, state agency or hospital using the network.
The North Olmsted Fire Department already is using the system.
“The MARCS system is a closed system, but it goes statewide,” Safety Director Donald Glauner said. “If, for instance, North Olmsted were to pursue somebody and they got as far as going down (Interstate) 71, they could contact the Mansfield post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.”
The current radio system makes it difficult for officers to communicate with anyone more than one or two communities away.
Fioritto said the biggest benefit likely would be that departments across a wide area could easily communicate in the event of a widespread disaster.
“This is a result of 9/11 when New York and New Jersey police and fire had difficulties communicating with each other,” Fioritto said.
The North Olmsted Police Department hopes to make the switch to the new digital radio system within a few months.
“It should be a huge improvement for everybody,” Fioritto said.