FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
Brian Cain

Brian Cain

Brian Cain is a sergeant with the Holly Springs (Ga.) Police Department, and is known as the "Millennial cop" on Twitter. He has been in law enforcement since 2000. He hosts and produces a podcast for Millennials in law enforcement.

Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Michael Bostic

Michael Bostic

Mike Bostic, of Raytheon Corp.'s Civil Communication Solutions group, specializes in open architecture, systems integration of communications and data programs. Mike spent 34 years with the LAPD. He managed IT and facility development, as well as the SWAT Board of Inquiry, which developed new command-and-control systems.

Why Does My Mobile Phone Have Thousands of Apps, But Not My Radio?

Open architecture for two-way radios should be a higher priority.

December 14, 2009  |  by Michael Bostic - Also by this author

LAPD mounted officer uses a two-way radio that hasn't changed much in four decades. Image via NoHoDamon (

I can't begin to count the times police and fire personnel have asked me why their cell phones have thousands of applications, yet their radios have none. The simple answer is that we, as public safety professionals, have not required it. The more complex answer is that poor coordination and execution of public safety contracts has prevented it.

In the past two decades, public safety personnel have moved from using basic brick mobile phones to devices capable of running remarkable applications for any communications need. But public safety radios have not changed much in my 36 years of policing. Other than adding a two-inch LCD screen, the only dramatic change evident in current radio models is the price.

Why is this the case? And what can we do to change it?

Engineers tell me the only difference between a police radio and my cell phone is the network and standards on which they operate. Cell phones work on a worldwide network where published standards encourage competition and innovation to meet customer demand for service around the world. Applications are built under the same standards and allow us to do almost anything on our modern devices.

In the public safety radio business, two major Original Equipment Manufacturers (or OEMs) control 95 percent of the market, thereby determining accepted standards and applications.

I remember my first Motorola handset. I could drop it, kick it, even leave it on top of the car; and it just kept on working. But here's what I didn't know at the time: the OEMs' goal is to keep public safety agencies coming back to buy their radios. They build a system that requires their equipment. You've got to admit, it's a pretty clever way to maintain their predominant market share.

Today, the public safety community is beginning to see that open-architecture systems for hand-held radios are the only way to promote competition and get the applications we should have had years ago. While OEMs are starting to build radios to handle various frequencies on one radio, they've yet to open up their interfaces so as to provide a truly multi-vendor environment, and not leaving us dependent on the same OEMs.

Public safety agencies continue to put out requests for proposals (RFPs) specifying old technology and not demanding an open-architecture system that can handle the types of applications we really need. This is changing, but requires a unified effort by the entire public safety community to make it happen.

Demand the capabilities you need instead of accepting the status quo. Ask your leaders to give you the technology you need to get your jobs done right.

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

SlimFast @ 12/16/2009 1:00 PM

I just want a radio that is smaller and lighter. The current ones are ridiculously big and heavy. The lapel mics could be updated as well...

Join the Discussion

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

Politics Trumping Tactics: [Don't] Sit Down… You're Rocking the Boat
Elected officials have one underlying goal that informs and influences all their other...
Foot and Hoof Patrol: Meaningfully Connecting Cops and Citizens
Foot patrol is the essence of community policing—officers on foot create opportunities for...

Police Magazine