Don't miss the interview below with Police Chief Doug Johnston
Check out these other interviews with law enforcement personnel!
- Manchester Police Department Chief Michael Hall
- Castleton Police Department Chief Peter Mantello
- Brattleboro Police Department Chief Michael Fitzgerald
Using the FirstNet network will improve situational awareness and keep law enforcement personnel safer with an improved communications capability. The FirstNet network will make it possible to use new audio reporting tools in the field to gain efficiency. Real-time data and audio/video feeds sent before, during and after incident response will improve the overall effectiveness of law enforcement personnel. Below are a few of the common questions we receive about FirstNet.
How will FirstNet promote communication with other first responders?
Interoperability: By establishing a common Band Class 14 channel of communication, first responders from fire service, law enforcement, medical services and others will be able to share data on a single platform. Such communication will promote a more coordinated response during emergencies.
How is FirstNet being built to ensure reliability and cybersecurity?
Reliability: FirstNet’s goal is to provide public safety-grade reliability so first responders can count on the network when they are on the job. FirstNet will make the network more resilient than existing commercial networks by requiring the FirstNet network to be hardened. Hardening entails strengthening cell tower sites and the overall network to ensure maximum reliability. The network will be engineered with back-up equipment and services to sustain operations during adverse conditions, like those experienced in Vermont during Tropical Storm Irene and the flooding in Barre during spring 2013.
Cybersecurity: FirstNet will have effective security controls that protect data and defend against cyber threats. To defend against today’s complex and rapidly changing security threats, FirstNet will be built with layers of security at every vulnerable point. Security will be designed into all radio access networks (RAN), the evolved packet core (EPC) network, service platforms, as well as the devices that use the network. Firewalls will enforce stringent security policies developed in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Defense (DoD) to meet National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) requirements. The FirstNet design will be guided by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) standards for encryption, as well as other standards-based security measures and best practices. FirstNet also plans to work closely across federal agencies with expertise in telecommunications security design modeling.
How will FirstNet solve coverage issues in my area?
Coverage Solutions: In addition to providing coverage with terrestrial towers, the FirstNet network will support mobile solutions to provide coverage to areas that are challenging to serve. Imagine a briefcase-sized transmitter that can send a signal to a nearby cell tower or satellite so that you can access the FirstNet network.
If my current communication set-up is working now, why should I change to FirstNet?
Access to Future Technology: Cutting-edge applications and devices are developed, or are being developed, which will increase in operational ability with the roll out of the FirstNet network. FirstNet’s priority is to support the latest technological advances for the benefit of public safety users of the FirstNet network. You want to make sure your department can take advantage of new developments when they become available, rather than falling behind and missing opportunities to improve the safety and effectiveness of your fire service response.
What will users pay for FirstNet services?
Affordability: FirstNet intends to offer services at a compelling and competitive cost to attract millions of public safety users and help make FirstNet self-sustaining. If FirstNet’s commercial partner (AT&T) does not attract at least 70% of targeted public safety users in a given year, the partner will face substantial financial penalties. The use of FirstNet’s services and applications will be voluntary. The costs for FirstNet’s services have not yet been determined.
It was a summer experience as a Police Cadet in 1974 that sparked a 38-year career in law enforcement for Springfield Police Chief Doug Johnston. Johnston, a native of Springfield, Vermont, has been fortunate to work on behalf of his home town throughout his professional life. As a teenager, Johnston was seeking a career in a field that offered variety and challenge. He joined the department as a patrolman in 1979, after graduating from Champlain College with an Associates in Science degree. He was promoted to Chief of Police in 2000. Johnston has twice been elected as President of the Vermont Association of Police in 2011 and 2013. He currently serves as one of the first responder representatives on Vermont's Public Safety Broadband Commission.
The Springfield Police Department is described as one of the busiest departments in Windsor County. What is your service area?
We provide law enforcement services to approximately 9,400 residents living within a 49 square mile area. Our 16-person police force responds to approximately 6,100 calls for service each year. We also have an emergency communications center. Our dispatch answers 60,000 calls a year from our department, along with fire services and EMS.
You have been fortunate to be able to grow up in and serve the same community for decades. What changes have you seen in Springfield that have impacted how your department serves the area?
In the mid-1980s, Springfield underwent a huge economic change as many jobs were lost due to the closing down of the machine tool shops. This caused a big turnover in our population. People left to find work and slowly new people moved in to take advantage of the services offered through the State of Vermont offices in town. With more people facing economic challenges, we’ve experienced a greater need to address social challenges. We initiated a Police Social Worker Program in 2006. We partner with Health Care and Rehabilitation Services of Southeastern Vermont to provide a crisis intervention specialist to the community. Like Vermont police forces statewide, we also are dealing with drug-related issues. Communication between our officers, other first responders, and the community remains very important to ensuring we are effectively serving our area.
Springfield is fortunate to have strong cell phone coverage and access to an LTE broadband network. How is your department currently using technology to communicate?
We have cell phones and rugged laptops in all of our patrol cars. We still depend on LMRs, but having the use of internet and cell-based devices just expands our ability to receive and share information. We have three cameras downtown to allow us to monitor for any problems. This can give our dispatchers and officers valuable information in responding to a call. We take advantage of secure email to send scanned files to Windsor County courts and avoid having to shuffle papers around. Court officials can simply pull up the document on their computer or tablet and have the information they need. Our officers don’t have to worry about paper copies of important materials.
What are your thoughts on the benefits of FirstNet to Vermont's first responder community?
I urge first responders to get involved and learn about FirstNet. Having a dedicated high-speed broadband network available to us means departments can move into using all kinds of new technology. I am concerned about the cost to use the service. However, overtime, we have made technology changes here in Springfield that were costly to start, but are now proving they were worthy of the expense. For example, we installed air cards in our computers to give us a more convenient connection to the internet. Anywhere you have cell phone coverage you can access the internet. Without the air cards, we had to rely on a traditional wireless connection on a computer that required a Wi-Fi network. The added expense of the air cards is negligible compared to the benefits our officers have gained from being able to quickly and reliably access information.