The history of Kingston’s police force, like that of all forces, is tied to the changes and advances in technology. With the advent of the automobile, the problems of traffic control and enforcement escalated. At the same time, the ability to respond to the needs of the city improved when the officers were then able to use cars rather than bicycles or horse-drawn vehicles.
In 1939, the force installed its first radio transmitter and receiver in the police station and in its new cars; however, it was not until 1976 that three repeater sites were placed around the city, providing officers with not only mobile coverage but also with portable radio coverage when away from their cruisers.
The expansion of the force’s responsibilities in 1999 severely strained the limits of that system. By realigning the repeater sites, mobile radio coverage was achieved throughout most of the city, but portable radio coverage was weak to non-existent in areas north of Highway 401. As an interim solution, in-car repeaters were added to marked patrol cruisers. This provided portable coverage in the rural areas, but it required officers to carry two portable radios with them, one for the old radio system and one for the in-car repeaters. This solution was less than ideal; thus, following years of planning and work with both Kingston Fire and Rescue and the City’s Emergency Planning Department, a new radio system was installed and went operational in March 2006. The new system provided the Kingston Police with a digital radio system with mobile and portable coverage across the city, as well as full encryption capability to provide a level of safety and security for the officers. As well, for the first time, an Emergency Operations Channel was put in place to allow police officers, firefighters, utilities workers, and employees of the City Works Department to communicate with one another during an emergency.
In addition to the voice radio system, mobile data terminals were added to the marked patrol cars in 1990, allowing the officers on patrol messaging capability, query access to the Canadian Police Information Centre system, and partial access to the force’s records system. This was the third stage of computerizing the force’s operation, with a computer-aided dispatch system and a computerized record-keeping function having been added in 1985 and 1988.
Mobile data terminals were replaced in 2004 with laptop computers, providing far greater functionality and the ability to generate reports from the field. In 2015, this equipment was upgraded to Toughpad® tablets in concert with a move from a dedicated data radio network with a bandwidth of 23 Kbps to an HSPA (high-speed packet access) / LTE (long-term evolution) network. To take advantage of new technology and additional features, in 2016 the Kingston Police moved to a shared city P25 700 MHz trunked radio system, which greatly improved interoperability with other city agencies.