(Update: More details; county also part of agreement)
Direct communication, if police pursuits move into another county
PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) – Crook County law enforcement agencies and the Deschutes County 911 Service District have reached an agreement that officials say should make for easier communication among officers when pursuits or other incidents require contact across county lines.
Prineville Police Chief Dale Cummins said Monday that Crook County has been on an older VHF radio system for a long time, while Deschutes County moved in recent years to an 800 megahertz (digital) system, as have many police agencies around the state.
As a result, he said, “we haven’t been able to communicate” with each other directly. If a pursuit headed toward or into Crook County, Deschutes County dispatchers or agencies would have to call Crook County dispatchers to relay information, instead of engaging in direct communication.
But Crook County has been upgrading its radio system, so the new agreement means Deschutes County will share a radio frequency when the needs arise, “so if you come in(to the county), we could switch to that channel and have direct communication,” Cummins said.
City councilors approved the intergovernmental agreement Monday evening, and Crook County Sheriff John Gautney is signing it as well on Tuesday, Cummins said.
The county's dispatch center is funded by the city, county and fire district, he explained. The dispatchers are city employees and the director of the facility reports to Cummins.
Cummins said the Deschutes frequencies would be used and monitored only when needed in such emergency situations.
He also noted that while VHF radio signals do well over longer distances, the digital 700 and 800 megahertz frequencies penetrate better in more urban areas.
Prineville police and city technicians have been working on upgrading radio towers, so Cummins said they probably will switch in the next year to the 700 and 800 megahertz channels, using the VHF as a backup.
“We’ll be more in line with the state’s radio system” he said. “It gives us better compatibility with surrounding agencies.”
Cummins noted that Jefferson County has such a communication agreement with Deschutes County, and it came into place in the recent pursuit of a Madras homicide suspect that ended in Crook County.
"We had discussed approaching Deschutes County in the past, but it was set aside due to a tumultuous 2020," Cummins further explained.
"The recent call regarding the homicide suspect chase brought it back to the forefront of our concerns, so the sheriff and I acted. This agreement increases the safety of officers and deputies in all three counties as quick and effective communication can be a key to success."
“It just brought it to the forefront,” the need for interoperability, Cummins said, so “when you’re chasing somebody, like the car we were on the other day, it’s really important that one officer can yell to the other one, ‘They’re running in your direction.’”