CALIFORNIA CITY — California City Police Department be bringing forth a request to upgrade vastly outdated communications gear if it wants to stay compliant with state and federal mandates, according to Police Chief Jon Walker during a quarterly budget report.
Walker told the city council during the special meeting Friday that most of its equipment was no longer being manufactured or no longer met certain requirements.
“We are the second-to-last communications system in the county,” Walker said. “It’s anticipated that everyone in the county will be on what they call the P25 system in the next two years.”
He added if the city doesn’t move along with the rest of the pack, “we won’t be able to talk to anyone in the county.”
He added that the Criminal Justice Information Services Division, or CJIS, put out a memo requiring law enforcement agencies to encrypt their communication broadcast gear by Jan. 1, 2021. CJIS is a division of the FBI.
“When we run different things over the air such as license plates, warrant checks, DMV checks, etcetera, we come up with sensitive personal information of the people that we are detaining,” Walker said. “CJIS has put out that if we do not come up with another encrypted system by Jan. 1, we will be noncompliant because we are putting out that sensitive information over the air.”
Walker said the police department planned to present a request at the Nov. 10 council meeting, but faced the problem of developing three bids on the project.
“The reason is there is only one provider for the whole region,” Walker said. “We’ve actively been trying to get other bids but this guy is a sole provider.”
Walker said the provider’s initial bid for CJIS and P-25 requirements upgrades stands around $210,000.
“The radios we have currently are for warehouse and malls, basically,” Walker said, adding parts and radios themselves are no longer in production. “We’re definitely behind the curb on communications which lead to safety issues and people getting hurt.”
Walker said CCPD also needs to upgrade its broadcast towers on Gallielo Hill and on Hyundai Kia Hill, as well as its body camera system.
The body camera units and equipment the police department purchased four or five years ago come from a company no longer in business.
“The units we’ve got are basically breaking and we’ve got no IT support whatsoever,” Walker said.
Upgrading body cameras would be another top concern, he added.
“Because of the climate with our law enforcement in our nation, body cams are absolutely imperative,” Walker said. “That’s the way of the world now.”
Mayor Chuck McGuire said he estimated the total cost for upgrades could be around $325,000 and $500,000.
“They’re mandatory needs,” McGuire, a retired CHP officer, said.
City Manager Anna Linn said officer safety comes into play when upgrading communications gear.
“When I’ve talked to some of the officers, who aren’t complaining, said it’s bad when they’re deep in the desert and they don’t have contact,” Linn said.
CCPD is responsible for covering nearly 204 square miles, including isolated communities about 20 miles from the city center.
Walker confirmed Linn’s comment, adding when CCPD makes its presentation, it will provide audio samples demonstrating communication issues.
“It’s really bad, where there’s a need to either constantly repeat or you just can’t hear,” he said.