Suffolk receives $1.1M grant to improve East End police communications

Suffolk County has received a $1.1 million state grant that officials say will benefit police and emergency service departments on the East End by improving emergency radio communications.

“Currently, when East End departments have radios which operate on our infrastructure, they simply have to change to a [different] channel to speak with persons from other departments or first responder agencies, with whom they would normally not be able to speak to,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini at a press conference outside the Southold Police Department Wednesday.

“This will help create better interoperability and enhance communications for all of our departments and emergency service agencies here on the East End,” County Executive Steve Bellone said.

New “interoperable communications sites” will be built in Greenport and Southampton, and eventually in Montauk, Mr. Bellone said. These sites will be provide East End police, fire and emergency services agencies with additional radio coverage during emergencies, he said.

The county had received a similar state grant in 2013 for $6 million and used part of that money to purchase 400 police radios which were loaned to other departments to allow them to better communicate during emergency incidents, Mr. Sini said.

The difficulty the county had in communicating with East End police or first responders came to a head during Superstorm Sandy, Mr. Sini said.

“A large number of radios were loaned to partner agencies throughout the county during the weeks and months after that storm,” Mr. Sini said. “However even with those radios, not every location was able to be connected.”

Construction on the project is scheduled to being in late fall, and the grant requires that the work be completed by the end of 2018, a goal Mr. Sini said they are on target to meet.

No new towers will need to be built, and existing infrastructure will be used,  he said.

“We’ve been working on this for years trying to make sure everyone is on the same page,” said North Fork Suffolk County legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue). You kind of take it for granted, when you call a police officer, that your needs are going to be met.”

The grant was a state Interoperable Communications Grant and was administered by the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

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Photo: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and local police officials announced a new grant to improve police communications. (Credit: Tim Gannon)