The radios operate on the Mississippi Wireless Integrated Network (MSWIN) using the 700 MHz range.
The Corinth Police Department recently began using the new radios while also keeping the old ones in use for a while longer.
“Coverage is a lot better for us in the city,” said Police Chief David Lancaster. “Before, we had a few places in the city that we could not talk from. With these radios, we can.”
The city obtained the radios with the assistance of grant funding. Sheriff Charles Rinehart told the Alcorn County Board of Supervisors this week that he wants to purchase the radios using drug seizure funds at an estimated cost of $34,000.
He said the portables have an outstanding range.
“The chief and I can sit in my office with this walkie talkie and talk to them in Jackson, Mississippi, just like we’re talking here,” said Rinehart. “It’s amazing the distance that they have.”
The development of MSWIN resulted from the Hurricane Katrina disaster, which showed the need for a way for agencies across the state to have seamless communications.
“If I have to travel to Tupelo or to Oxford for a meeting, I still have radio contact with my department,” said Lancaster. “We had a unit on the coast a couple of weeks ago for training, and they were able to talk back to Corinth and listen to our radio traffic.”
It works much like a cellular phone system, with the radios staying in constant communication with a tower. The state can easily designate a group of counties to talk to each other.
The new radios also cancel out background noise, making for crisper communications.
The police department doesn’t have enough portables to put one in the hands of every officer, so the old system is still needed. It also makes sense to have a backup, Lancaster said.
The new radios are not picked up by old-style police scanners. At some point, residents who follow the local traffic may begin to notice some silence as the departments begin to rely more fully on the new radios.
Lancaster said the intent is not to shut out the public.
“It’s about having the best possible communications we can have and keeping officers safe,” he said. “If you’re out there somewhere needing help and your radio won’t make it back to the police department, you could be in trouble.”