FCC Authorizes Railroad Police to Use Public Safety Interoperability Channels

August 23, 2016-In an order adopted Aug. 19 and released today, the FCC has changed its part 90 rules to allow railroad police officers—defined broadly—to use public safety interoperability frequencies to communicate with public safety officials that are already authorized to use those channels.

“Specifically, we permit railroad police officers empowered to carry out law enforcement functions to use public safety interoperability channels in the VHF (150-174 MHz, and 220-222 MHz, UHF (450-470 MHz), 700 MHz narrowband (769–775/799–805 MHz) and 800 MHz National Public Safety Planning Advisory Committee (NPSPAC) bands (806-809/851-854 MHz),” the FCC said in the order adopted unanimously in Public Safety docket 15-199 and Rulemaking 11721.

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) had filed a petition for rulemaking in 2014, asking the FCC to modify its part 90 rules to allow railroad police access to public safety interoperability frequencies (TRDaily, May 19, 2014).

Last year, the FCC adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that proposed allowing such access to railroad police officers (TRDaily, Sept. 1, 2015).  The NPRM suggested a broad definition of railroad police officers included in the Federal Railroad Administration’s rules, rather than the narrower definition that was suggested by NPSTC in accordance with a resolution adopted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). The FCC noted in the NPRM that some parties submitting comments on the NPSTC petition suggested that the narrower definition “is too restrictive, to the extent it does not include part-time railroad police officers or Amtrak police.”

The order adopts an “expanded version” of the FRA of railroad police officer, covering “a peace officer who is commissioned in his or her of legal residence or state of primary employment and employed, full or part time, by a railroad to enforce state laws for the protection of railroad property, personnel, passengers, and/or cargo.”  In this definition, “railroad” means “each class of freight railroad (i.e. Class I, II, III); Amtrak, Alaska Railroad, commuter railroads and passenger rail transit systems.”

The FCC also said, “Before a railroad or railroad police department may submit a license application to operate a base or control station on the interoperability channels, the applicant must comply with the Commission’s frequency coordination requirements.”

Commenters had disagreed “on whether to apply blanket licensing to railroad police mobiles and portables on interoperability channels,” the FCC recalled.  It adopted the NPRM’s proposal “to apply blanket licensing to mobile and portable units used by railroad police officers on the condition that railroad and railroad police department employers (a) obtain or hold a PLMR [public land mobile radio] license of any category; and (b) obtain authorization from the statewide interoperability coordinator in each state in which they operate.” —Lynn Stanton, lynn.stanton@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily