Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, on Wednesday announced she has secured $2.8 million for improvements to Lewis County public safety radio communications in a spending package advanced by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee.
In a news release, the congresswoman said she advocated for the funding, which now awaits approval from the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Lewis County funding is part of more than $7.4 million included in the package for Southwest Washington law enforcement operations, according to the news release.
“Lewis County residents have felt the impact of crime rising in our region. That in combination with the demoralized police force due to recent anti-police rhetoric makes it that much more important to support our Lewis County law enforcement officers with the proper tools to do their jobs,” Herrera Beutler stated. “I’m pleased to have worked in Congress to advance this request to upgrade Lewis County’s communication system that will help police and other first responders better serve citizens and keep our communities safe.”
According to the release, money for the Lewis County public safety radio communications project will be used to improve countywide mobile and portable radio coverage, as well as ensure radio system reliability to improve public safety.
Herrera Beutler’s office wrote that replacement of Lewis County public safety radio system infrastructure is essential to provide for reliable communications for all Lewis County law enforcement and first responders, 911-related communications and all state agencies operating within the region.
“We are extremely grateful for Congresswoman Herrera Beutler’s efforts in securing this funding to assist with our County Public Safety Radio Communications project,” Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza said. “This critical county-wide project benefits all first responders in their public safety efforts, and ultimately the citizens we protect and serve.”
Morton Police Chief Roger Morningstar echoed Snaza’s appreciation for the funding in a prepared statement.
“With these funds it is my hope that we will greatly improve both the safety of our officers and the communities we serve,” Morningstar said.
Lewis County Commissioner Sean Swope said addressing the public safety of Lewis County was a core objective for 2022.
“This is why we have committed $4.5 million in funding to upgrade our 911 communications system,” Swope said in the news release. “We are incredibly thankful for U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler for helping secure an additional $2.8 million in federal infrastructure funding to ensure we can complete this vital project. Thank you, Rep. Herrera Beutler, for continually fighting for the people of Lewis County.”
Other Southwest Washington project details, as defined by Herrera Beutler’s Office:
Funding would be used to replace the obsolete and failing public safety radio equipment. Cowlitz 911 provides emergency communication and dispatch services to six law enforcement and six fire and EMS agencies serving more than 100,000 residents. The safety of both community members and the emergency responders who serve them is reliant on this mission-critical radio equipment. Without updates and maintenance to this equipment, responders will be unable to talk to each other or 911 dispatchers, leaving no way for dispatchers to effectively deploy and manage critical resources to emergency situations.
Funding for this project will upgrade the entire county radio system. Unfortunately, the current system is obsolete and inadequate for the population it serves. This system provides the communications for law enforcement, fire, EMS, PUD, school district, public works and the town of Cathlamet. An upgrade to the emergency communication system will allow all emergency responders to provide better service to the residents of Wahkiakum County. An improved system will also benefit those who travel through the county, as the main route that connects the Long Beach Peninsula to communities inland passes through Wahkiakum County. The safety of both community members and the emergency responders who serve them is reliant on this mission-critical radio equipment, and an upgrade will benefit their well-being.
Southwest Washington communities continue to experience an increase in violent incidents often involving people with co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health conditions. Federal funds will support the acquisition of a simulator for Longview and Kelso officers to gain experience in a safe training environment that will reinforce good tactics and decision-making. Using an interactive training simulator is a cost-effective way to implement on-going training for officers, in turn allowing them to support the community more effectively and increase public safety.
Strategic funding will help improve the city of Battle Ground’s safety and emergency response capabilities, which are currently constrained by out-of-date police technology, an inadequate number of outdoor cameras and limited video storage capacity. Currently, all regional first responders are unable to communicate with each other or the 911 center inside the larger Battle Ground Public School District school locations. In addition, the Battle Ground Police Department relies on video surveillance to expand the department’s reach and capacity with constrained resources. Adequate video surveillance is critical to its ability to protect citizens and property for both immediate intervention of criminal activity and investigating criminal conduct after the fact. Also, installing radio repeaters inside schools ensures reliable communication capabilities in an emergency which increases student safety. Federal funding will help bolster overall community safety with comprehensive technology improvements intended to protect students and residents, as well as public and private property.
Federal funding will support the Washougal Police Department to establish a police body-worn camera program to ensure high quality service of its officers, increase transparency and openness and strengthen trust in the community. Body-worn cameras will enable the agency to document all encounters in the field and develop clearer understandings of events, which may assist in the criminal justice process.
Funding for body cameras for the Long Beach Police Department will help keep citizens and officers safe. These devices help keep all parties accountable, provide documentation for public records requests and help protect police officers and citizens against false claims of misconduct or abuse. Body cameras have already been implemented at the request of both police officers and communities across the U.S. and have shown measurable benefits to public safety and accountability.