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Safety: Command center puts sheriff’s office on the road

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

The Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office rolled out its new mobile command post for the Bassmasters tournament last week and put the vehicle’s advanced computer technology through its paces.

The white, 42-foot truck’s exterior appearance belies its 21st century communications capability. “It has the latest technology,” said Lt. T.L. Staub of the sheriff’s office. “It gives us a place to operate anywhere in the county or anywhere in the state we need to go to assist.”

Sheriff Lane Cribb said the mobile command post will be used in a variety of situations — crime scenes, acts of nature or missing persons. He called the vehicle “a fully activated sheriff’s office.”

Georgetown County Council gave Cribb authorization to buy the 2007 Freightliner cab and chassis with a 2007 Haulmark 33-foot motor coach for $142,000 last year from a dealer in Wisconsin. The money came from the law enforcement fund in the county’s capital improvement plan.

Staub said the vehicle was used by Monmouth University in New Jersey for Homeland Security research. “The vehicle was in good shape,” he said. “We didn’t really do anything to it beyond upgrading the technology at minimum cost.” When the sheriff’s office bought it, the vehicle had an odometer reading of 7,806 miles. The vehicle has a 350-horsepower Caterpillar diesel engine and a six-speed transmission. Operators must have a commercial driver’s license.

Cribb informed council members the vehicle was the only one his staff could find that met the department’s needs at a reasonable cost. The truck replaced a modified 2004 recreational vehicle being used for remote communications.

The new mobile command post is powered by two generators, making it operational for days. Staub said it will roll out for bike week security duty next, but there will be plenty of opportunities to use it. At a crime scene, for instance, one officer could make a video that is visible on the television sets in the command post for other investigators. “Not everybody has to go into the crime scene,” he said. “We can sit right here and monitor it.”

Donnie Elliott, who is in charge of the vehicle’s technology, said the displays inside the truck can sync up with deputies’ smart phones or body cameras. Supervisors could get real time feedback while officers search a school for an intruder or interview witnesses. Staub said the vehicle also gives investigators a secure and quiet place to interview witnesses and for victims advocates to make their initial contacts.

The satellite link provides secure communications with the State Law Enforcement Division, the Federal Aviation Administration or the FBI, Staub said. “After Hurricane Katrina, we looked at every disaster in the country. Communications was a big issue,” he said. “We determined we needed satellite phones.”

Some of the vehicle’s technology is old-school, Staub added. There’s a printer to make fliers of a missing child and white boards for messages. He wrote a tide chart on one board so deputies could answer questions. While there is no galley in the truck it has one useful option: a head.

“We can monitor everything that’s going on in the county,” Staub said. “We are hooked up to computer aided dispatch at the 911 center. This gives us more flexibility where we want to set up. We can do whatever we need to do without having to go back in the office.”

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