BAPERN was developed in the 1970’s to facilitate interagency radio communications and has been used on a daily basis since that time for wide-area and regional law enforcement notifications, as well as incident command during special events and operations. Over the past 40 years, BAPERN has grown significantly from a small number of Boston area agencies to the current 166 local, state, county, campus and federal law enforcement agencies that use the system every day to communicate essential public safety information. Further, BAPERN is governed by strict policy and procedure, thus ensuring its users are operating on the system to maximum advantage, are properly adhering to the frequent system tests, and are communicating in a manner designed to achieve maximum results and apprehensions. The system offers two, Wide-Area channels that provides all personnel in the 166 member agencies with immediate radio communications interoperability on their portable and mobile devices. In addition, BAPERN provides users with the ability to make regional-only notifications using the six district channels and four district digital tactical channels. All BAPERN member agency personnel have the standardized BAPERN channel plan programmed into their radios, which allows for consistent access to BAPERN channels from responding agencies during critical incidents involving mutual aid.
While BAPERN has been a local law enforcement fixture for decades in Massachusetts, the nature and extent of BAPERN usage was unprecedented during the week of April 15, 2013. Unfortunately, like the City of New York and too many cities from around the world, Boston can now be counted as the latest metropolitan area impacted by a devastating act of terrorism. As an ancillary component of this recent devastation, the GBPC can now also state that when a major terrorist event occurred in city of Boston, it was the BAPERN system that was relied upon and utilized by all responding law enforcement agencies to effectively and immediately communicate critical information across local, state, and federal lines of government.
ABOUT THE BOSTON AREA POLICE EMERGENCY RADIO NETWORK (BAPERN)
Long before the events of September 11th and current efforts towards protecting our homeland from threats of terrorism, the GBPC recognized a critical need for law enforcement communications interoperability. In the early 1970’s, a series of large scale incidents occurred in the cities of Cambridge and Chelsea that highlighted the inability of police officers from many responding agencies from communicating with one another on scene. It was this lack of interoperability that prompted the need for one radio system that could be utilized by all Boston-area law enforcement agencies. As a result, the Boston Area Police Emergency Radio Network (BAPERN) was conceived and implemented
Today, BAPERN is the only regional public safety inter-operational radio system in Eastern Massachusetts used on a daily basis for interagency communications, and the only system capable of both wide-area and district-wide interoperable radio communications during an emergency incident. By implementing design principles intended to provide uniformity, performance and enhanced officer safety, the BAPERN system has been relied upon for more than 40 years by its users for effective daily law enforcement communications across jurisdictions and incident command during major events.
Interoperability. The nature and extent of BAPERN operations is best understood in the context of how it is actually employed to achieve true interoperability. The network offers its members three levels of interoperability: (1) Day-to-Day usage for immediate communication of criminal activity, flight, and other inter-agency communications; (2) Mutual Aid communications in the event officers are called to another community and need on-scene radio communications, or to provide instant wide area notification of critical incidents to enable a timely response; and (3) Task Force and Investigative operations, for coordination of efforts during special events and operations. As GBPC members use the network on a daily basis, and for mutual aid and special events, it is tested and utilized heavily, thus ensuring its technical success. From helping to apprehend bank robbery subjects to facilitating inter-agency communications during Boston’s 4th of July activities, BAPERN’s achievements cannot be understated.
Scope of Membership. BAPERN serves law enforcement agencies at all levels of government – local, county, state and federal. In addition, BAPERN access is also provided to private colleges and universities, and hospital police. There are currently 166 GBPC member agencies with access to the BAPERN system. This includes 130 local police agencies, 17 college police agencies, 8 federal agencies, 5 Sheriff’s Departments, 4 state agencies, and 2 hospital police. In addition, the GBPC has also expanded BAPERN access to non-police disciplines (e.g., fire service, public health and public works) in certain regions for command and control purposes only, during emergency events affecting multiple communities. Today, well over 11,000 sworn police officers in Massachusetts have immediate access to BAPERN channels in their portable and mobile radios, allowing for both continuous monitoring for law enforcement notifications as well as the capability to make wide-area or district-only broadcasts to other law enforcement agencies. In total, the municipal members of BAPERN represent sixty percent (60%) of the Commonwealth’s total population, over 3.9 million residents.
Scope of Network. The BAPERN system provides the GBPC membership with a total of twelve (12) fully operational channels on which they can communicate: two Area Wide Channels, six District Channels, and four District Digital Tactical Channels. The BAPERN coverage area spans over 2,000 square miles (25% of the Commonwealth), from the New Hampshire border to the Cape Cod Canal, and to Route 495 to the West. Supported by a robust backbone consisting of 22 simulcast sites and 22 receive sites, BAPERN is arguably one of the nation’s largest multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional networks used on a daily basis in the interest of public safety. Like most of local Massachusetts law enforcement and other public safety agencies, BAPERN utilizes T-Band channels, as follows:
For over 40 years, GBPC has worked tirelessly to assess network demands and expand and upgrade the BAPERN system infrastructure and user equipment to ensure high quality radio communications for area public safety personnel. Recognizing the radio communications interoperability that BAPERN offers, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Department of Homeland Security have supported GBPCs efforts by investing significant Homeland Security, Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) grant dollars into expanding and improving the network’s core infrastructure. There are several federal grant-funded BAPERN expansion projects currently underway, including the culmination of a 7-year project that expands BAPERN into the MBTA tunnels in Boston, and microwave infrastructure expansion projects across the Northeast and Southeast regions of Massachusetts.