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Kent County law enforcement agencies launch $25M upgrades to dispatch system

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Posted at 1:34 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 13:34:39-04

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Kent County-area public safety agencies have upgraded the 911 radio dispatch system used to transmit public safety information to law enforcement agencies and personnel countywide.

The $25 million upgrades in radio equipment and technology are funded by the 911 surcharge and the Kent County Dispatch Authority, according to a news release Thursday.

The improvements went online in Grand Rapids in December and in other Kent County agencies in February and March.

Upgrades have improved the strength, reliability and clarity of communications for all public safety entities and jurisdictions across Kent County, law enforcement officials said.

Public safety agencies have also upgraded web-based Incident Status Monitors to provide easy access for anyone wanting to know where public safety resources are being deployed.

“This new system delivers on our promise to Kent County voters when they resoundingly approved the 911 surcharge in November 2016,” Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said. “These investments in the latest dispatch technology will help our dispatchers and law enforcement officers better serve residents throughout our community.”

With the installation of the new digital 700/800 MHz Motorola P25 radio system, the dispatch centers will encrypt police radio traffic on the network.

This will include radio dispatches for the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and for all local police departments throughout the county, bringing the county’s law enforcement agencies in line with federal regulations.

Specifically, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Security Policy requires that – when technologically possible – criminal justice information is transmitted, stored or shared outside of a physically secure location be encrypted.

The purpose of encryption is to protect the personal privacy of individuals served by the police, as these transmissions often include sensitive and personal information like mental health and medical history, personally identifiable information – including that of juveniles – information about domestic situations and sexual assaults, phone numbers, addresses and private building access codes.

When unencrypted information is picked up on police scanners, it can compromise the privacy rights of people involved and of their neighbors.

Because police scanners will not work on encrypted channels, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and Grand Rapids Police Department dispatch centers have upgraded their online Incident Status Monitors.

These web-based platforms provide information on countywide emergency dispatches and will list the general category, general location and current status of incidents. Certain types of personal information gets filtered out before posting.