Brownsville, Texas, police go digital to improve emergency response

Police in Brownsville, Texas, recently came into compliance with a federal mandate requiring all public safety agencies to operate on a digital frequency to allow communication with neighboring agencies.

The federal mandate came after the September 11, 2001, attack on New York City, during which first responders realized different agencies had different radio systems. The Brownsville Police Department converted from an analogue frequency to a digital frequency. The change will allow Brownsville first responders to communicate with agencies in Hidalgo and Cameron counties, the Brownsville Herald reports.

"It's actually been about a two-year long trip that we've been planning on moving to digital," Raul Rodriguez said, a lieutenant with the Brownsville Police Department, said, according to the Brownsville Herald. "When Cameron County told us they were going to go digital and abandon their analogue site at some point, that prompted us to move a little quicker into digital."

The conversion was the police department's first upgrade in its communication division since 1997. It cost approximately $6.2 million, with half paid for with grants and the other half paid for with a certificate of obligation.

The change also secured police radio channels.

"In a tactical situation, we give the bad guys an upper hand," Rodriguez said, according to the Brownsville Herald. "Again, it's so common now with the phone apps and the scanner apps that the bad guys are listening to every single piece of information. The attempt is not to keep the good people from listening to it. The intent is to keep the bad people from listening to our traffic."

The Brownsville Police Department will use local talk groups and channels to communicate with the local fire department and emergency medical services department while the departments transition to digital, the Brownsville Herald reports.