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FCC Changes Rules to Allow Railroad Police to Use Public Safety Interoperability Channels

Date: 2016-08-30
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On August 23, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) changed its part 90 rules to allow railroad police officers to use public safety interoperability frequencies to communicate with public safety entities already authorized to use those channels. The FCC's decision "facilitates railroad police access to the interoperability channels; minimizes burdens on public safety entities and railroad police; and ensures consistency with public safety needs and interoperability plans."

In May 2014, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) submitted a Petition for Rulemaking requesting that the Commission amend its rules to allow railroad police to gain access to public safety interoperability channels. The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) placed the NPSTC Petition on Public Notice. Comments uniformly supported the NPSTC proposal, citing the safety of life and property role that railroad police officers play in emergencies.

NPSTC thanks Admiral David Simpson, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, and the Bureau staff for moving this issue through the rulemaking process to a beneficial conclusion.

Right: L. Admiral David Simpson, Chief, PSHSB, and R. Deputy Police Chief Eddie Reyes, AMTRAK Police Department, August 2016

The need for public safety interoperability with the railroad police was initially raised in discussions between Chief Harlin McEwen, former chair of the International Association Chiefs of Police (IACP) Communications and Technology Committee, and NPSTC. Commenting on the release of the decision, Deputy Police Chief Eddie Reyes, AMTRAK Police Department, who currently serves as Chair of the IACP Communications and Technology Committee said, "This is a very historic day for railroad policing. Thanks to the FCC, Chief Harlin McEwen, and NPSTC for making this happen."

The ruling permits "railroad police officers empowered to carry out law enforcement functions to use public safety interoperability channels in the VHF (150-174 MHz and 220-222 MHz), UHF (450-470 MHz), 700 MHz narrowband (769-775/799-805 MHz), and 800 MHz National Public Safety Planning Advisory Committee (NPSPAC) bands (806-809/851-854 MHz)." For more details, including the timing when the new rules become effective, read the Order here.

- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via NPSTC, 8/29/16)

Top Photo by R.D.Larson, 9-1-1 Magazine photo file (from "Railroad Police," Nov/Dec1998 issue)

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