Law enforcement agencies are encrypting radio transmissions citing bogus officer safety concerns


The advent of mobile apps and websites that allow more people than ever to listen to police radio chatter prompted two local law enforcement agencies to follow a growing trend across the country – encrypting police radio traffic.

What that means is news outlets and the general public will no longer be able to hear when a traffic accident blocks a major intersection or an armed standoff results in evacuations.  

The Wilmington Police Department made the changeover in January and the New Hanover County Sheriff‘s Office is in the process of doing the same.

“Over the last couple of years we’ve seen an increase in criminal activity using technology to monitor law enforcement channels,” said Sgt. Jerry Brewer of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. As an example, Brewer told of a time during a vehicle stop when he heard a deputy’s call to dispatch echoing from a scanner under the driver’s seat of the stopped vehicle.

“For officer safety we feel it’s necessary to encrypt our channels,” he said.

This is total B/S police officer deaths are at a 50 YEAR LOW: The annual report from the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund found that deaths in the line of duty generally fell by 8 percent and were the fewest since 1959. The number of firearms deaths fell 33 percent in 2013 and was the lowest since 1887. This statistical evidence suggests being a cop is safer than its been since the days of Sheriff Andy Griffith.

Click here to read more.

That isn’t how our system supposed to work. Transparency is the default, not a spigot the police or government officials may turn on and off at will.

The public has a right to know what the police and other government officials are doing. And they have a right to know, in real time, what kind of crime is happening in their community.

Make no mistake, this action will affect your right to know. And it will affect the media’s ability to keep the people informed. Without the ability to hear police calls, reporters will have to rely even more on police-sanitized communications that contain only the incidents and information the police want you to know. Sometimes the public needs to know what the police do not care to share.

Brewer, the sheriff’s office spokesman as well as department’s communications technician, said the changeover to encryption involves no additional costs for agency.

“When we purchased the radios six years ago they came with encryption software. We are now going in and enabling that encryption,” he said.

The software then scrambles the transmissions and only radios that have the software installed will be able to unscramble or “decrypt” the communication.

Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous also cited officer safety as the reason for making the change to encryption in his department.

Communications between law enforcement officers over the public airwaves in the course of doing their jobs is public.Police Department’s and now the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office either do not understand or do not respect the spirit of that law. The are shutting down public access to the public airwaves that carry 911 dispatches and radio traffic to police answering calls for help.

Why? Because the public is listening.

They cite “officer safety” as the reason to make it impossible for neighborhood watchdogs, scanner buffs and reporters to hear real-time reports of crime and other emergencies involving law enforcement. Cheaper technology has made it easier, they say for “criminals” to hear when the police have been called. That is a bad excuse to shut down something that has long been available to the public and which has been used to further a sense of security and enlist the public in helping to fight crime.

The action should be challenged, and the General Assembly should stand up to any effort to remove police communications from the shrinking range of documents, records and communications that are considered public information. Residents want their police officers to be safe, but scanners do not compromise that safety. The home devices have been available for years, and if anything, people are safer when they are more aware of what’s happening.

Police often are quick to note that they can’t fight crime alone – they need the public to be involved and aware. By encrypting scanner calls, they shut the public out of that process. 

Elsewhere in the nation, some police departments have embraced broader public access by live-tweeting scanner calls, but even those are filtered according to what the department wants the public to know.

Irony: Feds want to continually spy on gov’t. workers looking for whistleblowers:

Stung by internal security lapses, U.S. intelligence officials plan to use a sweeping electronic system to continually monitor workers with secret clearances, current and former officials told The Associated Press.

The system is intended to identify rogue agents, corrupt officials and leakers and draws on a Defense Department model under development for more than a decade, according to officials and documents reviewed by the AP.

Intelligence officials have long wanted a computerized system that could monitor employees, in part to foil leakers like former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden, whose revelations bared massive U.S. surveillance operations. Such a system might also detect troubling signs in those who already hold security clearances, such as the shooter in last year’s mass killings at Washington’s Navy Yard. Many of the nearly 4 million government employees who hold secret clearances would be scanned by the new system, officials say.

An administration review of the government’s security clearance process due this month is expected to support continuous monitoring as part of a package of comprehensive changes.

Privacy advocates and government employee union officials expressed concerns that electronic monitoring could intrude into individuals’ private lives, prompt flawed investigations and put sensitive personal data at greater risk. Supporters say the system would have safeguards.

Workers with secret clearances are already required to undergo background checks of their finances and private lives before they are hired and again during periodic re-investigations.

‘‘What we need is a system of continuous evaluation where when someone is in the system and they’re cleared initially, then we have a way of monitoring their behavior, both their electronic behavior on the job as well as off the job,’’ Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress last month.

Clapper said the proposed system would extend ‘‘across the government,’’ drawing on ‘‘six or seven data streams.’’ Monitoring of employees at some agencies could begin as early as September and be fully operational across the government by September 2016. The price tag, Clapper conceded, ‘‘is going to be costly.’’

Current and former officials familiar with the DNI’s planning said the monitoring system will collect records from multiple sources about employees. They will use private credit agencies, law enforcement databases and threat lists, military and other government records, licenses, data services and public record repositories. During random spot checks, the system’s software will sift through the data to spot unusual behavior patterns.

The system could also link to outside databases to flag questionable behavior, said the officials, who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the plans. Investigators will analyze the information along with data separately collected from social media and, when necessary, polygraph tests.


7 thoughts on “Law enforcement agencies are encrypting radio transmissions citing bogus officer safety concerns

  1. I was wondering when they would start doing this. This is so when they institute martial law, that the people won’t be able to get a warning of police presence ahead of time and thereby disable the rebel’s communication and hinder the execution of their plans. Without the scanners, people won’t be able to surveil or get the upperhand on them without the police noticing, which is exactly the way they want it.

    The police have declared war on us and are telling us that they have to be on a higher level than We the People if they are going to continue to engage in domestic warfare.

  2. ““For officer safety we feel it’s necessary to encrypt our channels,” he said.”

    Here we go again. “For the officer’s ‘SAFETY'”.


    Screw the cop’s safety!! Danger is your job! You don’t like it, find another job, you sickos!

  3. What about We the People’s safety? We need to know where the cops and shootings are going to be at if we are to be out of the way and safe from getting shot at. Oh wait. Our safety doesn’t matter. Officer’s safety first. BULLSHIT!

  4. It’s AMAZING how much cops “fear for their safety”! When they always OUTNUMBER the citizens they’re beating on and are armed.

      1. poor widdow boy, he hurt his widdow pinky. Tempered glass will cut you, you stupid piece of excrement. Your lucky some of us trenchers weren’t there. You’d be on the ground with a lot more than a poke in the finger to cry about.

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