The Use of Two Way Radios in Law Enforcement


Two way radios have an interesting history and has been used in many capacities. It was invented in 1923, and Frederick William Downie, of Victoria, Australia, had the idea of using it to assist with police work. It has also found its way onto sea vessels, and it has many applications in the military. The two way radio on its own has a reach that is limited in scope, but by making use of a repeater, the two way radio becomes a tool that is indispensable.

What Does a Repeater Do?

A repeater is a small tower with an antenna that picks up a signal from a two way radio and rebroadcasts it at a higher wattage. This means that the traffic between law enforcement officials or firefighters can travel further and that people can communicate with those several counties over. This technology is the bedrock upon which communications in the rescue services are founded.

Use in Correctional Institutions 

Prison systems throughout the country use dedicated channels to relay information to one another internally. Every mass movement is called on the radios, and each officer is assigned his or her own device. Because so many inmates and officers must be accounted for, the two way radio provides a great method for keeping everybody safe. When a fight occurs, it must be transmitted right away, and every person within running distance is to aid in the breaking up of the fight. Also, the radios are used to speak to those keeping watch in the guard tower as well to the people manning the rover vehicles. What the radios cannot do is broadcast to locations far away from the prison, as their repeaters do not allow for the transmission to reach that far.

Usage in Police and Other Rescue Settings

When a person who is the middle of an emergency dials 9-1-1, it sets off a chain of events that all depend on the reliability of the two way radio. The dispatcher calls the police officer on the radio and also decides which units to alert to the crisis. They then respond and relay their location and their estimated time of arrival. The operator is responsible for choreographing the movements of the police and for giving them updated information from the caller. The cops’ whereabouts will be recorded by staff in real time as it is conveyed to them on the air, and this is for their protection.

Additional support can be called in via dispatch, and fire and EMT can be called to the scene if needed. The dispatcher has a detailed mapping and addressing system and can provide responders with accurate directions should they need it. He or she can also walk the caller through questions on their procedure manual and can convey the vital data back to the team on site.

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