Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning. Sign Up

Column: FirstNet is a critical tool for public safety

By Bill Partridge

For many investigators, experience at crime scenes and the wisdom developed through interactions
with witnesses and suspects alike helps to cultivate important tools – whether those are new
investigative techniques, a better-honed instinct, or improved technologies to gather and analyze
evidence and to communicate with others in public safety.

Like anyone in any other professional field, our experiences drive us to do better and achieve more.
In his recent testimony before Congress, Ed Davis, former Commissioner of the Boston PoliceDepartment, shared his experience with the Boston Marathon bombing and how it significantly
influenced his passion for improving the technology and communications resources available to public
safety organizations.

Following the bombing, area resources were overwhelmed, and communications networks were flooded
by emergency calls, family and friends calling one another to assure loved ones they were safe, and with
witnesses sharing their experiences. In Commissioner Davis’s own words, “Overwhelming numbers of
phone calls, texts, and internet searches rendered voice communications practically useless for
everyone, including the police officers on scene and those responding.”

In response, Commissioner Davis has been a strong advocate for FirstNet – the nation’s first
communications network dedicated to public safety. FirstNet provides communications priority and pre-
emption to members of public safety so they can react and respond with real-time information.

Importantly, when commercial networks are overwhelmed, public safety on FirstNet stays connected.
While we don’t share Commissioner Davis’s experiences around the marathon, we have undoubtedly
experienced communications challenges here in Alabama, whether as a result of tornadoes or other
severe weather, or, in years past, as a result of sparse wireless coverage.

And – without question – those past experiences have led my team and me to recognize the value of

My department has embraced technology and made it integral to our investigative process and critical
to our efforts to keep our community and region safe. Our team here in Oxford has established a global
reputation for their skilled and focused use of technology to serve our community and to serve
communities across Alabama and the southeast region.

FirstNet has helped us tie many technologies together, helping us deliver intelligence-led policing and
provide seamless communication and data flows.

Whether there are multiple agencies responding to a large-scale event or if we are responding to an
emergency in remote areas of the Alabama hills – FirstNet has helped keep us connected and
coordinated within our department and across other agencies and jurisdictions.

In the coming months, Congress has an important decision before them. They must decide whether or
not to re-authorize FirstNet. Created by Congress following the terrorist attacks of September 11 th ,
FirstNet was launched in 2018, and it has quickly become an indispensable tool for law enforcement and
public safety.

In his testimony before Congress, Commissioner Davis also emphasized the importance and critical value
of “real-time data sources and proactive investigative tools”. FirstNet is the communications network
that allows for the consistent flow of that essential investigative data.

I am thankful for the capabilities FirstNet delivers to my department, and it is incumbent upon Congress
to reauthorize FirstNet.

Partridge serves as the chief of police and director of public safety for the City of Oxford.

Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Web Development By Infomedia