We’ve all seen one, and perhaps your city has one.
The U.S. pioneered the compact communication hub back around 1876—shortly after Bell invented the telephone. It was how officers “walking the beat” called back to the station with their reports and requests for assistance. The police call box decentralized forces, as officers no longer trekked back to headquarters multiple times a day to touch base.
In the 1920s U.K. call boxes had a light on the top that would flash to let an officer know he should make contact with the station. Sometimes in addition to a phone, the public servant could find a first aid kit or incident book.
When you see one now it’s kitsch or quaint. Maybe it even serves coffee. These little blue hubs were in vogue until the 1960s. And from that time on, like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, law enforcement communication has continued to catapult into new frontiers.
We’ve come a long way! In fact, most of us have the ability to communicate nearly instantaneously—wherever we are—with whomever we want to talk to. The old call box has shrunk down to something you can hold in the palm of your hand. But no matter how advanced we are, our methods need to work.
In the U.S., FirstNet—the independent authority tasked with building, deploying and operating a network that speaks with Federal, state, tribal and local entities—is up and running. It needs to easily foster communication between jurisdictions and be fluent in modern mediums like video and text. It needs to be secure, and it can’t have gaps when you hit the rural areas.
Interoperability doesn’t come cheap. And it isn’t implemented overnight. There’s still a lot of education that needs to happen and new products to consider. As the proposed public safety broadband network continues its evolution, the supporting technology is already here—think FirstNet-ready smartphones. It all begs the question, what’s next in line?