A federal grant has fulfilled a lasting need at the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security financed a $40,076 grant for eight new portable radios, all of which can connect to a statewide law enforcement network. Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond applied for the grant in 2017, and delivery of the Motorola radios arrived Friday.

Agencies from across the state can communicate with each other through radio channels in MOSWIN, the Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network. Bond said the new radios are like an “elaborate computer” with this system.

“I could be able to access the network, push the button and talk to (agencies in) Springfield or Hannibal or St. Louis,” he said. “Likewise, when I’m in St. Louis, I can talk to my dispatcher here. From a cellphone standpoint, that’s no big deal, but from a radio standpoint, that’s huge.”

Road deputies have had similar radios with MOSWIN capability for about a year. Bond applied for the federal grant to equip the rest of his staff with the advanced radios.

Now, school resource officers, La Monte deputies, detectives and administrative deputies will have the same statewide radio connection.

Deputy Sgt. Curtis Hammond said the radios are a crucial part of the Sheriff’s Office daily patrol.

“The radio is our lifeline when we’re out there because a lot of times we’re out there by ourselves,” Hammond said. “There are a few deputies that do not have complete access like we do in our vehicles and our walkies, and with everyone going to have one, it’ll be a lot better communication.”

A nonprofit organization, Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission, handled the radio purchasing with the federal grant funds. Pioneer Trails administers the regional grant program for homeland security to supply emergency response agencies with equipment that might otherwise be impossible for them to afford.

The organization serves an eight-county area in West-Central Missouri, including Pettis County. It supplies law enforcement radios, fire department air tanks and portable scene lights for emergency management directors.

Debbie Brackman, of Pioneer Trails, presented Bond with his new set of radios at the Sheriff’s Office on Friday. Each radio cost into the thousands for the main receiver, holsters, batteries and antennae.

“It’s rewarding when you’re able to buy these radios for EMAs and law enforcement offices,” Brackman said. “You realize how expensive the equipment is.”

Brackman, a homeland security planner, had previously helped Sedalia/Pettis County EMA Director Trisha Rooda purchase $1,400 portable lights, which she said could illuminate half of a football field.

Deputies have already had to use the lights to investigate a scene of human skeletal remains. A Missouri Department of Conservation agent found the bones Oct. 27 in a densely wooded area of the Eagle Brook Farm subdivision. Processing of the scene began at dusk, and the Sheriff’s Office had to secure the area overnight.

The Boone County Medical Examiner’s Office later classified the remains as a white man age 35 to 45. An investigation is still ongoing to identify the body.

The same grant program that purchased the lights is coming to fruition again with the presentation of the new radios. Now, all P​​ettis County deputies can contact agencies across Missouri from the palm of their hands.

“Being able to reach (signal) out in pretty much all of the county now with these is a lot better than we ever had,” Hammond said. “We’ll be able to hear what’s going on from everybody, so it’ll be a lot better.”

By Nuria Martinez-Keel | Sedalia Democrat