It all started with a red light: The Bay Village Police Department enters the digital age

The Bay Village Police Department recently upgraded its communication system to the MARCS network, featuring digital technology. Photo by Mark Spaetzel

Part two of a two-part series.

In the first installment of this series in the Sept. 1 issue, I attempted to follow the path of the Bay Village Police Department's communication technology. In the mid-20th Century officers on patrol would respond to a call for service via a red light attached to the Community House; by 1959 they had adopted the use of two-way VHF radio. The department recently modernized its communication equipment to a high-tech digital radio network to accomplish the task.

In my previous article I mentioned that Bay Village Police Department Chief Mark A. Spaetzel had been kind enough to meet with me and provide any information he could relating to this story.

Chief Spaetzel confirmed my finding of his department’s long term utilization of the VHF radio frequency mentioned in my previous article, and also confirmed my personal observation that through the years on that frequency his department would periodically need to update its radio equipment in order to communicate effectively. Even so, operation on the VHF frequency had been prone to marginal coverage in some areas of Bay Village, and, overall the radio system had been showing its age.

In (my opinion) the most eventful development in the Bay Village Police Department’s radio history since originally commencing the use of two-way communication, Chief Spaetzel confirmed that his department, along with Westlake and other Westshore suburbs, migrated their day-to-day radio operations to The State of Ohio’s Multi Agency Radio Communication System, also known as MARCS, a year or so ago.

Technically a second generation statewide radio network (the first being around 20 years old), the current MARCS offers state-of-the-art digital radio communication technology to the many agencies that have migrated to it.

Inherent in being on the MARCS network, especially as more agencies adopt its use, is the ability to have radio interoperability with those various agencies. Additionally, the radios used to access MARCS offer the functionality to communicate with agencies using other interoperable networks. This provides Bay Village and other Westshore police officers the opportunity of radio communication with personnel from agencies they wouldn’t normally contact, except in unusual situations.

Another benefit of being on the MARCS network is the ability, if needed, to allow an officer in one part of the state to communicate with an other officer on the network in a totally different geographical area.

Chief Spaetzel stated that the cost of the new radios needed to access the MARCS network had been covered by a Cuyahoga County grant, and due diligence was carried out to test and make sure the radios performed well in all parts of Bay Village, including inside key buildings, before migrating to MARCS.

So, from calling all cars in Bay Village with a red light attached to the Community House to calling from across the State of Ohio via a high tech digital radio network, Bay Village (and the rest of the Westshore) has certainly witnessed major changes in the way officers are contacted on the road.

Dan Hirschfeld

I'm a longtime resident of the Bay Village and Westlake area (Bay 1965 to 1977, then Westlake since) who has always enjoyed living here while seeing lots of change over the years.

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Volume 7, Issue 19, Posted 9:00 AM, 10.06.2015