Morgan County deputies switching to digital radios

By Gary Scott on February 11, 2016 at 12:38pm

Scanners like the one we have in the WLDS-WEAI news room soon won't be picking up much traffic.

A change is coming soon to the way Morgan County Sheriff’s Department deputies communicate.

Officers will soon be switching from the current analog format, which has been used for decades, and going digital for radios in squad cars and portable units.

Morgan County Sheriff Randy Duvendack, appearing on yesterday’s edition of “What’s On Your Mind?” on WLDS, talked about the pending upgrade.

“We’ve found, particularly in the last couple years, our radio service has gotten worse, or less reliable, in particular parts of the county. Anybody who has a cell phone knows you may go through an area where your phone just doesn’t work well, it may go dead. We have kind of the same issues,” says Duvendack.

“I appreciate the county board’s support. We talked to them about it. We knew it was going to be expensive to do this, but we knew in the interest of safety, not only for my officers, but safety for the public. We have to be able to get calls, we have to be able to handle the calls appropriately when we get there, and that involves communication,” he continues.

The county will join the Jacksonville Police Department, which moved its traffic to a digital frequency about a year ago. Being on a digital system means police communications can be encrypted. Duvendack says it’s his understanding that doesn’t mean all communications get blacked out.

“We have ways that we can try to communicate, if there’s something that we do need to protect. We don’t want the information to get out right away, we will use cell phones, we have the in-car computers that they can send a message. But, most of our traffic is routine traffic,” he says.

“I understand if we have a stakeout, surveillance, something going on, that we are going to want to protect our conversations just for the safety of the officers. But, my understanding is, most of the channels, unless we encrypt it, I think certain channels will still be able to be monitored and scanned,” continues Duvendack.

Digital radios are available for purchase at consumer electronic outlets.

Local emergency services units and fire departments in Morgan County are still using analog equipment, according to Morgan County Emergency Services Director Phil McCarty, but he says there are plans for them to make a similar transition in the future.