Tracy Hall, a field training officer for Penobscot Regional Communication Center in Bangor, does hands-on training of the then-new 911 system in the Penobscot Regional Communication Center on May 11, 2007. Credit: Kate Collins

The Region 5 Chiefs of Police is an organization that represents all law enforcement agencies in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties. Membership consists of chiefs of police, sheriffs and the agencies’ second in command.

On behalf of the representatives of the Penobscot County law enforcement agencies, I am writing to strongly endorse the Question 3 bond Issue on the July 14 ballot. If approved, the bond will be used to upgrade the Penobscot Regional Communications Center’s public safety communications infrastructure for emergency medical services, fire and rescue services and law enforcement throughout the region.

Currently, a majority of the radio and dispatch infrastructure that the Penobscot County Regional Communication Center relies upon for daily communications has been in use since the late 1990s. It probably goes without saying, but this equipment is used 24 hours per day, seven days per week and has outlived its useful life span and is now obsolete. Not only is the equipment obsolete, but the current system as a whole has many coverage gaps, leaving our officers without radio capabilities, leaving them unable to communicate with each other and the dispatch center.

These gaps lead to dangerous situations for responders and victims alike when information cannot be transmitted and precious minutes are lost. To complicate the matter, we aren’t always able to rely on cellular communication because the coverage area is poor due to the rural location and topographical complications.

This situation is not only dangerous to us as law enforcement officers, but it’s equally dangerous for the firefighters and emergency medical technicians throughout Penobscot County. Frankly, if any of these first responders are in a life-threatening situation, they may not be able to communicate with the dispatch center to call for the help they may need. This not only endangers their lives, but it has the potential to endanger the lives of those who they are trying to help.

We as a group understand we are facing unprecedented times, and the financial hardships are real due to the economic recession from the COVID-19 crisis, but the need for this critical infrastructure update is long overdue and the safety of all first responders depends on it. We are asking that on July 14, Penobscot County voters support this important project by voting yes on bond question number 3.

Mark Leonard is the Veazie Police Chief and chair of Region 5 Chiefs of Police.