Right now, San Jose police and other law enforcement agencies in Santa Clara County are running only their radio communication on the new $10 million system unveiled Tuesday.
But San Jose police Capt. Diane Urban said this new network holds the promise of more coordinated response for criminal investigations and emergency situations.
Urban is the city's liaison to the Silicon Valley Regional Interoperability Group, the local network of emergency responders that launched the project, dubbed ECOMM.
"It's unfathomable what this technology is going to bring us," she said.
The ring of 23 microwave dishes surrounds the county with a high-speed network independent of commercial wireless and phone systems. The circular formation allows towns to stay in touch, even if one portion of the network is flattened in an earthquake or other major disaster, Urban said.
She likened the system in its current state to an empty 10-lane Los Angeles freeway. It has the capacity to hold giant amounts of data, shared between municipalities.
In San Jose, for instance, police officers have begun testing a pager-size device that can take someone's fingerprint on-site. At some point, ECOMM will allow officers to run a print through the regional network in 60 seconds, Urban said, rather than having to bring a suspect down to the station.
"We get a preliminary hit in the field and we know what we're dealing with," she said.
Officials hope to move emergency calls to the new system, and avoid incidents like April's phone outage when vandalized fiberoptic lines left south county residents unable to call 911.
ECOMM will also allow various police and fire agencies to radio among one another on special channels. Urban recalled working in the police special operatives unit, trying to execute a search warrant in Milpitas.
"Our radios didn't talk," she said. "I had to stand hip-to-hip with my counterpart in Milpitas."
Motorists may be less excited about another proposed use for the system: sharing electronic traffic ticket records with traffic courts and other agencies.
Sharing this information on ECOMM would help traffic courts process violators more quickly and help police access traffic records for criminal investigations.
The project took 10 years to complete and required cooperation from 18 jurisdictions in Santa Clara County, Urban said. San Jose contributed to the $10.1 million cost with a variety of grants.
Urban said plans are in place for similar networks that could link the system to agencies in other Bay Area counties and, eventually, the entire state.