Did you know … Over the years, six presidents of APCO International have come from the Northern California Chapter of APCO (NAPCO): Arthur Sowle (when Reno was part of NAPCO), Charles McMurphy, Henry L. Crutcher, John Powell, Glen Nash and Thera Bradshaw. NAPCO was founded in 1938 and originally included Northern California and Reno, Nev.

Brower McMurphy was the chapter’s first president and frequency coordinator. Since that time dozens of dedicated public safety personnel have held those offices and played invaluable roles in the chapter’s success. Many members of NAPCO and the Southern California chapter (California Public-Safety Radio Association, CPRA) have led and participated in technical, operational and project committees that have shaped many of the improvements within the public safety communications landscape locally and nationwide.

As with most chapters, recruiting colleagues for elected chapter office and other positions is a challenge. NAPCO is fortunate to have not only a group of active members, but also retirees, who consistently give their personal time and expertise to aid the chapter in its efforts. An excellent example is our senior frequency advisor, Art McDole, who has served an uninterrupted 43 years in frequency coordination. Art has been a member since 1949. When he joined the organization, APCO was known as Associated Police Communications Officers, and the officers/members built their police mobile radios. (When you see him, ask Art where they got the aluminum for the chassis.) Art is a one-of-a-kind pioneer, and NAPCO is grateful to him.

NAPCO currently has more than 380 active members who represent public safety agencies serving more than 14 million Californian residents and visitors. Our membership encompasses the northern 48 counties of California. The San Francisco Bay and Sacramento metropolitan areas comprise the more urban population centers in our chapter, but the chapter also has rugged, vast rural terrain, miles of coastline, vistas with tall mountains, wide valleys, large deep lakes that are home to many watercraft, national parks, pristine forests, distinct recreational areas and suburban expanses. We also have many miles of highway, which may occasionally see one or two speeders. All of this topographical diversity creates the opportunity for interesting spectrum usage and sharing, as well as interoperability challenges among state, county, city, special districts and federal public safety agencies and those entities that support their mission.

The NAPCO board consists of a Vice President, President-Elect, President and Immediate Past President. Those elected commit to serve a one-year term of office in each chair, progressing through each one—a four-year total commitment. The members elected as the Executive Council representative and five at-large directors serve two-year terms of office. Additionally, appointed positions for Secretary, Treasurer, Sergeant-at-Arms, Frequency Advisors, Webmaster, Chapter Historian and Commercial Activity Committee Chair assist the board.

NAPCO holds regular, monthly chapter meetings, with the exception of those months when the Western Regional Conference, North/South joint meetings with CPRA and the annual APCO Conference & Exposition are held. A standard chapter meeting includes a business meeting, a vendor presentation, lunch, door prizes and important engineering discussions about frequency coordination. Afterward, NAPCO hosts the monthly National Public Safety Planning Advisory Committee (NPSPAC) Region 6 meeting. The chapter’s annual meeting is held in December. That’s when members elect and install chapter officers, present awards and hold a vendor tabletop exposition. This meeting is always well attended by many of our retired members, making it a perfect time to say “hello” to those you haven’t seen for a while.

One of the chapter’s ongoing challenges is enabling members to be involved in the many and varied chapter activities. Due to the distance separating members, chapter meetings are held throughout the northern half of the Golden State, which includes Monterey Bay, points encircling the San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento Valley, Sierra Foothills and up and down Central California. We try to distribute the meeting locations so each member can attend a chapter meeting several times a year. From time to time our meeting format is fine-tuned to improve service to our members.

NAPCO’s focus has always been on how to best serve the public’s trust. Currently, that focus is on the provision of timely and cost-effective training for both operations and technical staff, the 800-MHz rebanding transition, which includes NPSPAC’s Region 6 “repacking” of new spectrum to the true 12.5-kHz bandwidth that will provide additional channels for both new and existing users. Since the chapter’s inception, NAPCO members have strived to achieve interoperability for all public safety disciplines: law, fire and EMS. Since 2001, interoperability has taken on the urgency of national safety and security.
The chapter Web site, www.napco.org, provides meeting announcements and minutes, chapter information, licensing updates, regional planning, frequency logs, current news items, associated links and our monthly bulletin, the Northern Californian. We are grateful to retired member Richard Flanagan who currently hosts the site for us.

Many thanks for the helpful input of Art McDole, Jack Atkinson, Ken Stuber, Steve Overacker, Cynthia Keehen and, last but not least, Maggie Perry, whose excellent historical records made this article possible.

–Thomas Yerger, Northern California Chapter Historian