In the community

Border board approves police communications grant

ONTARIO ­– Police agencies in Malheur County are on their way to getting the first major upgrade to their communications system in 20 years.

The board in charge of spurring economic development along the Idaho border with Malheur County recent approved a nearly $500,000 for a project involving the Ontario Fire and Police Departments, Nyssa Police Department, and the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office.

The Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board in January awarded a $428,037 for emergency communications and records management.

Ontario Police Chief Michael Iwai said the upgrade is the first since 1993. While he said there had been updates to the system over the years, the system is only a step above not having one. The current system, he wrote in the grant application, is the plain database, which makes information entry and retrieval cumbersome and tedious.

Iwai said Nyssa, Ontario and sheriff’s office patrol cars will get computers to allow for the cruisers to be linked to a computer-aided dispatch system.

From a patrol car or the dispatch center, first responders in real time will locate which units are on the way, he said.

“We are streamlining, upgrading the entire process, making it more efficient and more effective.”

Iwai said the system goes live in March and 16 patrol cars will be set up with a computer and 25 laptops for his officers.

Shawna Peterson, executive director of the border board, said the board considered the technical upgrade an essential project for the region and that public safety and data collection underpin economic development.

She added that the board was “impressed and encouraged” by the agencies working together on the application.

“The board has long prioritized collaboration in the region,” she said.

“This process got us all on the same page with respect to how we’re going to ensure this program is built and gets better over time,” Iwai said.

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