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Albany County Sheriff's Dept. to Get Nearly $1M in Radio Tech

The new radios include next-generation technology that would give the department improved coverage and may play a role in future school safety plans, according to Albany County, N.Y., Sheriff Craig Apple.

(TNS) — The county will spend nearly $1 million on new radios for the Albany County Sheriff's Department.

The radios will offer expanded communication capabilities and may play a role in the department's future school safety plans.

The expense was approved on short notice at the legislature's last meeting on Sept. 12.

Sheriff's department officials told Albany County legislators last week that Motorola approached them and offered a steep discount if they purchased 170 radios and accompanying equipment by the end of the month. Under the legislature's process, the resolution approving the expense wouldn't have come up on the agenda until its October meeting.

The radios include next-generation technology that will give the department improved coverage, Sheriff Craig Apple and other department officials told the legislature's Audit and Finance Committee.

"We have to enhance our schools' safety and this is a key element and a massive savings for the county," Apple told the legislators.

The radios are able to utilize broadband cellular networks, giving them much wider range, which would improve in-county communications and also allow deputies working outside the county to receive radio transmissions.

"What that translates to is when you're out of coverage from our radio system, the LTE network will pick up the coverage for our first responders, enhancing our radio system," said Kevin Demarest, the department's director of communications.

The radios also include capabilities such as wifi connectivity and GPS tracking. The department hopes they will also improve the ability to communicate with deputies in areas of the county that the current radio system struggles with, which includes inside schools.

The equipment would cost over $1.8 million without the discounts Motorola offered, according to a pricing document submitted to the legislature. Instead, the county will pay $997,847.

The purchase will be fully paid for with grant funds, department officials told legislators. Apple told legislators that the department was originally planning the purchase for 2023 but if it waits until next year, it would not receive the discount and the county may have to cover part of the cost.

The department also sees other applications beyond communication between deputies, including use in schools. Sheriff officials hope to eventually place the radios and accompanying hardware in districts throughout the county as part of improved security measures. They outlined scenarios where teachers barricaded in classrooms would be able to contact 911 and deputies would be able to find them.

Apple told legislators the department may charge districts a small fee as part of that process.

"The school is just an added luxury," he said. "But this is about public safety for our men and women."

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