POLICE Magazine

JUL 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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S P E C I A L R E P O R T • M I S S I O N C R I T I C A L C O M M U N I C AT I O N S 9 whole law enforcement agencies can choose to implement a First- Net communication system. A good example of this is the Brazos County (TX) Sheriff's Office. Very few law enforcement agencies have as much experience with FirstNet as Brazos County SO, which shared access to a 2017 first responder LTE experiment in neighboring Harris County that coincided with Houston's hosting the Super Bowl. So when Texas opted in to the FirstNet network Brazos County SO was one of the first agencies to sign up. Sgt. Josh Hearen says the agency's desire for FirstNet capabil- ities was driven by its experience with communications issues during Texas A&M football games. During and aer the games, cellular service experiences a significant drop off in the stadium area as an additional 50,000 people try to access their providers' networks. Rather than have each individual deputy sign up for FirstNet (something they are still free to do), Brazos County SO chose to build an agencywide FirstNet solution. Each of its patrol vehicles now has LTE modems that provide a secure mobile broadband network for a variety of devices, including computers, tablets, in-car video systems, and ticket writers. "Each one of our patrol vehicles is now an LTE hub," says Hearen. He explains that this gives patrol deputies and investigators the ability to have their own dedicated WiFi network at any scene. ey can even stream video from car to car or from their patrol vehicles to a command center and deputies on the scene can access the live feed from any of the county's surveillance cameras. 8. PRIORITY AND PREEMPTION Perhaps the most important thing to know about FirstNet is what makes it different from any other cellular provider. e an- swer is security, priority, and preemption. AT&T's agreement with FirstNet allows the company to use the spectrum for traf- fic from its commercial customers but first responders have priority. A special SIM card in the FirstNet sub- scriber's phone or other cellular device tells the network that it has priority. At high traffic incidents or events, this priority can even result in preemption, meaning the non-FirstNet user loses access to the network if the bandwidth is needed for FirstNet customers. 9. CAPABILITIES Because FirstNet offers secure dedicated bandwidth to first re- sponders, it can handle heavy data throughput that would choke commercial networks. For example, FirstNet users can live stream video from one officer's device to another without fear of buffering or signal failure. is means officers can share real-time intel with supervisors. Perhaps more importantly supervisors, dispatchers, and other sources can send information such as building floor- plans and other critical data to officers in the field. An officer from one area of an incident can even stream video of that scene to an officer at another area of an incident. is enhances situational awareness and officer safety. 10. THE FUTURE FirstNet is just now launching, so we really don't know all that it's capable of yet. But we do know it has the potential to change the way many law enforcement operations are conducted. Truthfully, the hardware—the phones, tablets, and cameras—has yet to catch up to FirstNet's potential. e first thing that is sure to come from this is more streaming video capability from body-worn camer- as. And somewhere down the line could dedicated first responder networks and cellular devices supplant the standard police land mobile radio? at's a question that remains to be answered. What we do know is that a dedicated first responder communications network such as FirstNet has great potential to improve public and officer safety. To learn more about FirstNet, go to https://firstnet.gov . n Officers with access to FirstNet have priority. When necessary, others will lose access to the cellular network if first responders need the bandwidth.

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