Mile-High City's four-by-four mobile unit scales interoperability mountains

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For the Denver Police Department, the Justice Department's 25-city project was a sterling opportunity to plug a communications gap that ran through the streets of the Mile-High City, past the city limits, past the edges of Denver County and into some of the roughest terrain in the country.

When Denver city and county was selected to participate in the project, Dana Hansen, superintendent of communications at the Denver Police Department, was ready with a wish list.

'We pretty much knew where we had some gaps,' she said. Looking beyond city limits, where communications interoperability would be crucial, 'we thought: What has happened in Denver or the state where we needed a solution and we didn't own it?'

One example involved an extensive manhunt in the mountains 230 miles southwest of Denver for the killer of two sheriff's deputies. Denver sent its SWAT team to help, Hansen said, 'but our radios don't work there. It's too rugged, and there's no [radio] coverage.'

What Denver needed for everyday police work'and what would be useful in responding to emergencies in the rest of the state'was 'a 4-by-4 mobile communications vehicle,' Hansen told the team from the Justice and Homeland Security departments and Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. The projected cost was over the project's budget, 'so we worked it out so that Justice would buy the hardware and deliver the pieces to us, and one of my best techs, Bruce Dennis, would take on the installation,' she said.

The mobile unit is uniquely fitted to urban areas as well as the rugged terrain throughout the rest of the state, she said. Communications on the vehicle are preprogrammed to work with state and local police, search and rescue, fire and medical first responders, as well as the military and federal agencies.

If the manhunt'or another event such as a child lost in one of the state's wilderness areas'were to occur again, Hansen said, 'we'd have a standalone communications center that we could plug in anywhere. And we'd be using the same equipment we use every day, not being handed unfamiliar radios from the sheriff's department in that jurisdiction.'

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