In the field, the radio connection between a police officer and dispatch is a lifeline. But in York, Maine, police say that lifeline is getting cut – and calls aren’t going through.
Chief Douglas Bracy estimates 35 percent of town is a "dead zone" for radio calls, where officers can’t call in to dispatch or to each other. Problem spots include beaches, York Hospital, and York High School.
"When time is of the essence, that’s not acceptable," said Chief Bracy.
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He said the town’s terrain presents a problem for radio signals, with rocky areas and coast. Additional antennas could mitigate the dead zone areas, which is why police are asking for voters to approve $500,000 in bond money.
The town will hold an election on May 20.
Chief Bracy said police have had issues for years, and realized the gravity of the situation when the department tried to hold an active shooter drill at the high school.
"Right off the bat, we could not talk to the command center sitting in the parking lot," he said.
A few months ago, one York officer had an issue at the Ogunquit town line. According to Sgt. Brian Curtin, the officer made a routine traffic stop and called for back-up when the passenger acted suspiciously.
Sgt. Curtin said the passenger was trying to hide heroin in the vehicle. When the officer arrested the passenger, the driver of the car became confrontational and started to get violent.
The officer’s calls for help never came through.
"It’s a worse-case scenario happening," said Sgt. Curtin. "As a supervisor, it’s frustrating to think that could happen. He was in trouble, and we never heard."
Curtin said another officer happened to be driving by, and assisted. If it hadn’t been for that coincidence, he knows the situation could have ended differently.
"That made me upset," he said.