Now that Rolla and university police officers have switched to using digital radios, officers have noticed much clearer reception and less static during communications.

On Dec. 26, both the Rolla and Missouri University of Science and Technology police departments started using new digital radios.

During the Jan. 10 Phelps County Emergency Services Board (PCESB) meeting, Communications Chief Paula Volkmer said while there are some kinks, “no one is complaining about the audio quality. The quality is worth the kinks so far. It's just getting used to doing things a little bit different.”

Volkmer noted that Rolla police officers are getting a signal in areas that they had not previously. PCESB Chairman Paul Rueff echoed Volkmer’s thoughts and noted that he could hear central communications in Rolla from Steelville.

“It was encouraging ... I’m pleased with that. I personally think that was a good move,” Rueff said.

RPD Chief Mark Kearse told The Rolla Daily News Monday that with the new digital radio system, officers have reported good reception and clear communications with no static.

Cpl. Adam Meyer, of the RPD, said another benefit to the digital radios is that officers are now capable of speaking with and hearing other RPD officers.

Rolla police officers used to communicate via portable radios, but they couldn’t hear each other. Usually, they would have to contact central communications, which would then contact another officer for them.

Missouri S&T Campus Police Chief Christy Laughlin said the reason the university police made the switch is because Rolla central communications handles the campus police’s dispatches.

“We were on the same frequency, so whenever Rolla went to make the move (over to digital), we had to make the same move,” Laughlin said.

Laughlin said campus police officers are “very pleased with the radios and have very good reception in some of the areas that we hadn’t had before.”

The switch to digital radios was part of a move by both agencies to begin operating off of the Missouri Statewide Wireless Interoperability Network (MOSWIN), which is only compatible with digital radios.

MOSWIN is statewide emergency radio system that will incorporate the use of about 70 radio towers strategically placed across Missouri and will allow statewide communication among emergency service agencies.

The City of Rolla relinquished some of its assigned frequencies on its former two-way radio system and in return was provided the necessary equipment needed to convert the RPD system to the digital network. Kearse said because the city gave up some of its frequencies, it cost the RPD only a small amount.

As other law enforcement, fire and emergency agencies join MOSWIN, Rolla central communications will be able to communicate with a Rolla police officer, no matter where he or she is in the entire state.

Kearse noted that the RPD kept some of its assigned frequencies on the two-way analog radio system that allows the department to switch back or communicate with another agency that does not have digital radios.

Because other law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies in Phelps County have not switched over, such as St. James, Doolittle, Newburg and Edgar Springs among others, Phelps County Sheriff Rick Lisenbe said he wants the sheriff’s department to wait to switch to using digital radios.

“I have a hard time abandoning these outlining agencies,” the sheriff said, noting that if he did switch over to digital radios, he wouldn’t be able to communicate with those emergency agencies.

“I want to bring everyone on at the same time,” Lisenbe said. “When we do it, I want to do it right.”

The cost of digital radios is another issue, Lisenbe said, and added that he wants to hold off on purchasing radios and first see how the digital radios work for the RPD.

Back in September, the sheriff’s department was notified that it had been awarded four mobile radios that can be used in the digital (or Project 25) mode and conventional mode, valued at $17,000, through the Missouri Statewide Communications Assistance Program (MOSCAP).