‘These radios are a huge asset to us’: Delco overhauls police radio system

Darby police officers receive the first batch of new radios as Delco seeks to reinvent its emergency communications networks.

police radios

Delco's new radios will be the start of replacing an older model that is susceptible to "dead-zones" and bad coverage. (Kenny Cooper/WHYY)

No more sharing radios.

Police officers in the Darby borough of Delaware County have become the first to receive new radios in the countywide radio investment program. This initiative is a part of a larger project to upgrade communication infrastructure among first responders.

“Delaware County has recently made enormous strides in improving our communication systems for our police, fire, and EMS,” said Timothy Boyce, the county’s director of emergency services, in a press conference on Tuesday.

Timothy Boyce
Timothy Boyce, the county’s director of emergency services, says the county is making strides to upgrade its entire emergency communications systems. (Kenny Cooper/WHYY)

The current first responder radio infrastructure is roughly 20 years old and riddled with “dead zones,” where the radio signal can drop unexpectedly. Additionally, the system is constantly receiving interference from television channels. The new radios offer a number of technological advancements, including playback and alternate channels.

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“And for the first time in Delaware County, every officer will be assigned his own radio. No more sharing radios, no more dead batteries. Every officer will have his own and be able to serve 24/7,” Boyce said.

Historically, municipalities would have to fund a project like this, but the county has made it a priority to overhaul the system with the help of first responders and local officials, according to Boyce.

Joseph Gabe, the chief of the Darby Borough Police Department
Joseph Gabe, the chief of the Darby Borough Police Department, calls the new radios a “huge asset.” (Kenny Cooper/WHYY)

“These radios are a huge asset to us,” said Joseph Gabe, the chief of the Darby Borough Police Department.

The $3.5 million project includes more than 2,500 radios, 1,200 of which will go to officers. Within two months, every police officer will have their own radio. The alternate channels will be completely functional in six months.

In addition to the new radios, officers will also have cellular radio phones as a private backup to radio.

“Again, it’s a backup to the radio system, we recognize we have issues, but Delaware County Council’s committed to making sure that officers are safe,” Boyce said.

Boyce says he wants to assure the public that this is in no way a cause for concern.

“No part of this is about encrypting or keeping the public from their right to know. But there are times when it’s protected health care information that best serves the community by using the phones,” Boyce said.

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Darby leaders and officers
Darby leaders and officers, along with officials from around the county, unveil the new radios. (Kenny Cooper/WHYY)

The radios and cellular phones are just several steps that the county is taking during this attempt to modernize countywide communication.

“These radios are very important as the upgrade as we move along with this new radio system,” said John Viola, Haverford Township Police Chief and president of the Delaware County Police Chiefs Association.

The entire endeavor to upgrade the county emergency communication network will include the construction of new towers and cost between $30 million to $50 million.

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