This paper reviews the reasons for and the development and features of the Piedmont Regional Voice Over Internet Protocol Project (VolP), which converts voice signals into digital form, allowing them to travel over the Internet or private networks that use Internet technology before they are converted back to ordinary voice signals at the receiving end.
The creation of the VoIP was spurred by the incompatibility of radio systems of five bordering law enforcement jurisdictions in Virginia and North Carolina. Prior to VoIP, fleeing suspects would speed across jurisdictional borders, knowing that pursuing officers had no way of communicating with officers across jurisdictions in order to obtain assistance in picking up the suspect. The U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) provided technology support to the public safety agencies of the five jurisdictions, and two vendors donated equipment and services in order to create the VoIP. Cisco Systems, Inc., a supplier of Internet networking equipment, worked with the participating law enforcement agencies in setting up a VoIP system that connected the participating police departments’ existing land mobile radio networks to an interoperable Internet protocol network. The system allows communication across agencies by using computers or standard radio equipment. The new system also includes a dedicated connection between police dispatch centers. Dispatch personnel can now communicate directly with one another; and they can add more radio resources to the network as needed by using standard “patch“ procedures with which they are already familiar. This project gives NIJ an opportunity to assess an emerging technology that may improve law enforcement communications while testing the application of commercial communications tools to law enforcement use. NIJ’s efforts are focused in three key areas: governance, technology deployment, and evaluation of VoIP technology.