It’s not that Booneville Police Chief Al Brown is ready to go to a digital radio communication system, but he does want to be ready when the time comes.

The BPD has moved to a narrow band in recent months, Brown said, and has applied for a license for a digital system, but has not received it as yet.

Nonetheless, Brown said last week the BPD has purchased three more handheld digital radios. The radios were purchased with funds from the receipt of an Edward R. Byrne Memorial grant, which is given to police departments specifically for equipment purchases — the BPD has been a regular recipient of the grant for four years.

With the three new radios, valued at about $1100 apiece, the BPD now has eight such units, along with nine units that are installed in vehicles and at the BPD, Brown said.

"We needed three more and this grant allows us to do this without getting into our budget," Brown said.

When the county acquired a grant last summer, through the Driggs Volunteer Fire Department, the Office of Emergency Management provided five handheld and the mobile devices Brown said last week.

The grant is paying for 95 percent of the purchase price with county fire departments providing the rest, Don Fairbanks said when the grant was announced in July. The funds purchased 307 hand-held digital radios and 132 mobile digital radios.

"We’re moving from analog radios to digital radios because it’s an improvement and it’s required by the FCC," Fairbanks said in July. "Digital radios provide clearer reception. They cancel out the ambient noise so you only hear the voices."

With emergency services moving toward digital communications, Brown said he really has no choice but to follow suit.

"There wouldn’t be any way for us to talk back and forth," the chief said.

There’s a drawback, however, for those who routinely use scanners to monitor emergency traffic in the county, because they won’t be able to pick up traffic on the new radios. In July Fairbanks said the initial page will still go out on an analog signal but, digital-to-digital traffic will not be received.

With the remaining money from the Byrne Memorial grant, about $900, the BPD purchased new mattresses for the jail cells and new jail uniforms, Brown said.