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Back to Archives | Back to April 2012 Contents 

Legislative Alert

A Victory for Law Enforcement: President Signs D-Block Legislation

By Meredith Ward Legislative and Media Affairs, IACP

n February 22, President Obama signed a piece of legislation that will allocate the D-Block to public safety. As part of the payroll tax cut extension compromise, a deal was reached on D-Block that includes

  • D-Block allocation for public safety,
  • funding ($7 billion) for a build-out of a nationwide public safety broadband network,
  • a good governance structure, and
  • preservation of the 700 megahertz (MHz) narrowband mission-critical voice spectrum.

The IACP has been working with the first responder community as part of the Public Safety Alliance for the past two and a half years to allocate D-Block spectrum to public safety for the development of a nationwide, interoperable, public safety broadband network. This has been a top priority for the IACP and for IACP President Walter A. McNeil.

Law enforcement and public safety must have a minimum of 20 MHz of broadband spectrum to meet current and future needs and have access to new technologies to perform increasingly complex duties. These technologies must have adequate and dedicated spectrum to ensure that they will be more secure and reliable than commercial broadband systems. The D-Block allocation to public safety and federal funding will help to meet the critical needs of our nation’s law enforcement and public safety community.

Commercial systems cannot be relied upon for mission-critical operations. Commercial networks, which often become congested with consumer applications such as Facebook, YouTube, Hulu, and Twitter, do not provide priority access to law enforcement and public safety. A substantial slowdown of service in the commercial services will serve as an inconvenience to paying customers; however, a similar slowdown for public safety could result in lives being lost.

The completion of a nationwide, interoperable, public safety broadband network will significantly impact the day-to-day lives of our nation’s law enforcement and other first responders. This nationwide network would allow for the transmittal of mission-critical, real-time, high-resolution data such as photos, videos, and text messages with the in-building penetration required by police, emergency medical services (EMS), and fire personnel when responding to emergencies within residential and commercial units. The robust network would be strong and efficient enough to provide mission critical–grade communication in the case of a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, or other emergencies.

Consider these examples:

  • This will allow law enforcement across jurisdictions to communicate when there is a high-speed chase across border lines, when a natural disaster like a hurricane or tornado occurs, or during a major event that spreads across jurisdictions.
  • The nationwide system would prevent communications lines from becoming jammed during an earthquake, a hurricane, a terrorist incident, or another major incident that greatly increases commercial cellphone and broadband usage.
  • This will allow for first responders to send secure data when it counts the most. For instance, during an active shooter incident or a rescue mission, there may be a need for law enforcement to receive a blueprint of the building or the property where the incident is taking place.

All of the major national public safety organizations supported this legislation, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Police Executive Research Forum, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International, the National Association of State EMS Officials, the National Criminal Justice Association, the National Emergency Managers Association, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Troopers’ Coalition, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

Additionally, many state, local, and tribal government organizations supported it, including the National Governors Association, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors, the Council of State Governments, the International City/County Managers Association, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The IACP wishes to thank Communications and Technology Committee Chairman Chief Harlin McEwen (retired) for his tireless work on this issue. The IACP also would like to recognize the hard work of our membership for the letters sent, the calls made, and the work performed toward the passage of this critical legislation. ?

Please cite as:

Meredith Ward, "A Victory for Law Enforcement: President Signs D-Block Legislation," Legislative Alert, The Police Chief 79 (April 2012): 8.

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From The Police Chief, vol. LXXIX, no. 4, April 2012. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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