Tuesday morning couldn't pass quickly enough for Gulfport Police and Fire Dispatchers. They've spent the last seven months in a temporary cramped space communicating on a 30-year-old radio system. By 11 a.m., the countdown to switching over to the new system began with some words of encouragement from Police Chief Wayne Payne.
"Gulfport one to all units, be advised in 10 minutes we will be switching from high ban to the new radio system."
Once the switch was made and the dispatchers moved to the permanent radio room, the chief described this day as Christmas in April.
"We're certainly very proud and very happy that it is here. It gives these officers a safety tool that they've needed for a long time," Payne said.
Safety has always been the concern. For years officers and dispatchers complained interference from other out of town departments made it impossible to talk to each other on the old system. Dispatchers say that's a scary feeling.
"There's been times officers have hollered for help and no one could hear them, and that scares you after it's happened," dispatcher Donna Fox said. "Now we don't have that fear anymore. When they key up, we know who's keying up. It's going to tell us what officer, so it's going to be a whole new world for us too."
In their cars, officers say it's nice to finally be able to clearly hear the dispatchers.
"Before, they may try to call us and couldn't get us, or we couldn't hear them, or we tried to call them, and they couldn't hear us," Officer John Cuevas said. "Now with this new radio system, we've got 99.9 percent of the county covered."
It's been a long time coming, but now that the new radio is up and running in Gulfport, all law enforcement agencies in Harrison County will be able to hook up to it too. The countywide system costs $15 million with Gulfport forking over $7 million for its part.