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Radios boost BPD communications

A Homeland Security grant has made it possible for theBrookhaven Police Department to communicate with other city andcounty emergency services in not only crises but everydaysituations as well.

Police Chief Pap Henderson said his department is not onlymoving to a new frequency on the radio, but is also equipped withmuch-needed all-new radio equipment.

“In order to accomplish our goals in this day and age, this newfrequency and the new equipment are imperative, and we’re fortunateto have the money through the Homeland Security Grant,” hesaid.

Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey said the $29,285 grant wasgiven to the City of Brookhaven through the state by the federalgovernment.

“There was an equipment list that we could choose from,” he saidabout how the money could be spent. “And Chief Henderson thoughtthe communications equipment was the most important need at thistime.”

The inability of many agencies to communicate with each othercame into the spotlight after Hurricane Katrina. But Henderson saidit’s not only a Katrina-type situation that warrants the need forall the agencies to be able to communicate.

“We could have a disaster of many types,” said Henderson, citingthe railroad tracks that run all throughout the city and county.”It could be a train disaster, or a hurricane or tornado. And insome of those situations we would need to be able to talk to thesheriff’s department and the fire department.”

Galey brought up the downtown fire of May 24, saying the newsystem would make such a situation flow even more smoothly.

“For instance, the downtown fire, we had the police and firedepartment and all the volunteer fire departments,” he said. “Atthis point, all of the emergency services are back on high bandexcept the Highway Patrol, and that means we can all communicate.It just makes it easier when everyone is on the samebandwidth.”

Henderson said with the new equipment installed it takes thepressure off if there is a situation where phone systems are notworking.

“This way we don’t have to worry about making several telephonecalls, we can talk direct,” he said. “It’s so important in today’ssociety to have this capability. This is something we’ve needed fora while.”

Henderson said the department had acquired 33 new hand-heldradios, which is enough for each officer to have his own, as wellas a charger to juice it up overnight. The police cruisers werealso fitted with new radio systems Monday, meaning the new systemwas running by lunch time.

“This is the talk all over Mississippi,” Henderson said.”Different agencies are all working on communications all over thestate. Sometimes we need each other.”

Henderson also made it clear that the new system is not aluxury, but a necessity.

“This is not something fancy we’re just doing for fun,” he said.”We needed to have it. We had to look at what we would do if wewere all in an emergency situation together.”

And with the annexation tripling the size of the city, it wasalso time to invest in some new equipment that would make itpossible to communicate in the far corners of the new area.

“This all came in at just the right time for the annexation. Wedidn’t plan it that way, but it came through for the best,”Henderson said. “Now we’re just working on getting them in ourinventory and getting our old stuff taken up.”