June 30, 2011
With a student body of nearly 30,000, Portland State University (PSU) is the largest university in Oregon. The campus is made up of 50 buildings, including ten student housing facilities, situated on 50 acres in central Portland. Policing at PSU is handled by the Campus Public Safety Office (CPSO), which is staffed for up to 16 officers and five dispatchers. “We provide most of the law enforcement services for the university,” says lead dispatcher Tyler Roppe, “and act as the central contact point for the university.”
The array of on-campus situations handled by CPSO is varied. “Like most university campuses,” Roppe says, “a lot of what we get are cold thefts, such as someone reporting that their vehicle has been broken into or that an office has been burglarized. Then the rest really runs the gamut. It can range from helping someone who’s locked out of their office to responding to a fight or drug activity.”
Public safety communications on the campus are handled with a heterogeneous set of radio systems. On the one hand, CPSO works closely with Portland’s own police department, and must be able to communicate effortlessly with city agencies. “Like pretty much all public safety agencies in our region,” Roppe explains, “our base stations and handhelds are programmed to run on 800-MHz radio systems that are maintained by the city of Portland.
Roppe says that being on the city’s system allows CPSO to connect to other agencies and participate in multi-agency response networks. “Our officers can easily connect directly to the Portland police,” he says. “They have a Central Precinct radio channel that covers our area, and we typically scan that channel, and sometimes we might take calls for them if there is something happening in our area. That’s the kind of relationship that we’ve been trying to develop and maintain with them.”
CPSO uses three channels on the 800-MHz system – one for the city police’s precinct channel, and two for on-campus CPSO activity. Two channels run on Motorola MCS 2000 systems, and another on a newer Motorola XLT. At the same time, CPSO needs to maintain easy communication with other campus departments that use a Motorola 450 radio system, including the parking and recreation staffs. The 450 system also serves as CPSO’s backup in case the city system goes down.
Until recently, Roppe says, juggling these various channels made additional work for dispatchers: “Even though we don’t have a huge number of channels, each channel had its own microphone and it was something of a hassle to deal with. Also, we were really limited on the number of channels we could utilize, which made our job that much harder.”
The opportunity to address CPSO’s radio issues came when the department was moved to a new location on campus. “We’re now in the basement of what is probably our most stable, secure building on campus,” Roppe says. “Our part of the basement is actually underneath a different building that includes the penthouse that houses our radios. It was difficult to run cables from the penthouse down to our basement, and the distance was too far to push a radio signal or to try to run a serial-based configuration. So we were looking for a way to deal with the physical barriers as well as needing an upgrade to make it more efficient to handle our channels. That’s where Telex came in.”
“The idea of running radio over IP (RoIP) was a very attractive way to deal with the situation,” Roppe continues, “because there was already Ethernet to our basement and also to the penthouse. In fact there is a fiber line that goes directly from us to that penthouse. And once we had decided on RoIP, it seemed like C-Soft was the system that everyone was talking about. It seemed to be the best way to go in terms of the features that were important to us: interoperability, patching, recall, multiple channels, adjustable volume, and the ability to expand. All that made it very attractive for us.”
CPSO was able to handle its initial needs with two IP-223 dual IP remote adapter panels and one 12-channel C-Soft radio dispatch and signaling console with a single-instance (one dispatcher) license. The 450 system is now interconnected to the 800-MHz system via C-Soft, and one dispatcher can now easily handle traffic across all four channels.
“Everyone is very happy with the C-Soft console,” Roppe says. “We haven’t had any significant issues at all. It’s great to be able to interoperate with the 450s, and the system is very stable; once it was locked in, we didn’t need to adjust it. And the IP-223s are very sound units; we’ve never had any issues with them. So overall the reliability on the system has been very good. We’d actually like to expand the Telex system and use it in some new ways, including interconnecting with our phones. This system was a good choice for us, and I don’t see us using anything else.”