As part of a comprehensive study to improve cellular performance for the department, Kreynest documented the signal strength at 300 locations throughout St. Louis and found that, even with a reliable carrier and quality hardware, the city has dead zones and weak signal areas. "The way our patrol fleet rotates throughout the city, it just made sense to install the amplifiers and antennas in all of the vehicles," he says.
In a more rural area, Kevin Fuhr, chief of police in Rathdrum, Idaho, noticed that although his department had installed the mobile communications systems in squad cars, many officers were still coming into the office to file reports. "We just didn't have the cellular coverage in some areas of our town, and officers were losing their connection while they were writing reports," says Fuhr. "Lost connections meant lost reports."
After hearing about Wilson Electronics products from another police chief, Fuhr had antennas installed in the squad cars. "They really improve the range and the reliability of the connection," he says.
Without the dropped calls, the mobile communications systems in Rathdrum's squad cars are performing better for officers and allowing them to communicate from the field. "For me that is the biggest issue," says Fuhr. "I want officers to be visible and available out in the community, and the antennas allow that to happen."
Kreynest points out that maintaining good cellular connections and keeping the mobile communications systems connected is also part of working with the "newer breed of police officer." Younger officers, he says, expect to have computer systems installed and cellular systems performing "because it is simply what they are used to."
The laptops have become as important a communications and safety tool as the police radio. "Pulling someone over is one of the most dangerous things an officer has to do," he says. "With a good signal and a quality laptop, officers can run license plates and get immediate information — prior arrests, traffic violations, outstanding warrants, etc., on who and what they might be dealing with in the car they have stopped."
Those working inside police stations and law enforcement office buildings also have issues affecting their ability to get and maintain reliable cellular signals. In St. Louis, for example, Kreynest configures his mobile units in a steel-lined room that once housed a test-firing range. "It had minimal signal reception before we installed the amplifier and antenna," he says. "Now it has five bars all the time."
Steel and concrete buildings are not unusual in law enforcement, but in county sheriff's offices located in the same buildings as county jails, extra steel reinforcements are even more common because of the security requirements. In buildings like this, amplifiers and antennas can make all the difference.
The office adjacent to Washington County's Purgatory Jail is equipped with amplifiers and antennas designed to boost cellular performance for everyone who works there. "We didn't realize how spoiled we were until we built the new building," says Pulsipher, referring to a new office building nearby that will house the sheriff's offices along with the Utah Highway Patrol and the region's adult probation officers. "Toward the end of construction it was clear how much weaker the signal was and how different the cellular performance was in the new building," he says. "We installed the Wilson equipment because we don't want to operate without it."
With cellular enhancing equipment in place, law enforcement officials now have reliable cellular communications in the field and in the office, when and where they need it most.