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Old 02-28-2014, 12:43 PM
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Default Fort Worth Regional P25 Radio System Encryption

Well, I have unfortunate news directly from the city of Arlington, TX this morning. The communications administrator has informed me via email that routine police and fire will be encrypted once the system becomes operational late 2014.

They are the 2nd city to opt for encryption on routine traffic groups, the other being Fort Worth. Every other city on this system has opted not to encrypt, hopefully that stays in place.

I could rant about encryption on routine traffic groups but won't.

So, my feed will go silent late this year once they go online.

Ken
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Old 02-28-2014, 12:49 PM
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If only we could connect the dots.
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Old 02-28-2014, 12:59 PM
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Police, I suppose I can understand why they encrypt but fire too? What a crock. I'd get the media involved so they can put out lots of "what are your public safety agencies trying to hide from you" stories - maybe all the bad press (literally) will change some minds at City Hall.

-AZ
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Old 02-28-2014, 1:02 PM
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Luckily, the last news that someone had about FWFD and MedStar would stay in the clear.
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Old 02-28-2014, 1:13 PM
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Thats when i would start to attend the counsel meetings and bring it up to discussion. I would go to every meeting until someone gave me an answer as to why they need to hide from the public. We need to get proactive write letters, call senators and write the chief and ask why? We won't except that it's for officer security. Officers got along just fine up to now without encryption.
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Old 02-28-2014, 1:20 PM
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100% agree. I can just hear police and city officials spouting off about officer safety. Sort of like when politicians rant about "It's about the children". It makes me sick! Never mind that I have monitored scanners for 35 years and can relay countless times of law enforcement assist because I or friends knew what was happening in their neighborhood or city. I'm sure they would bring up that the criminal element is using their smart phones to listen to us on the internet, we can't have that. Never mind that broadcast of "routine" traffic is delayed anywhere from 45 sec to 2 min. Never mind the fact that a typical rodent is not gonna be carrying a $500 scanner with him to listen in to the po po.....not that they could figure it out.

These actions by these so called leaders in our cities really gives me pause and just sickens me. They really believe keeping routine comms secretive is the way to go and can't think outside of the proverbial box. How did they ever survive the last 75 or so years, back when we were buying crystals to monitor them. How dare we listen?

K
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Old 02-28-2014, 1:54 PM
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I agree on the media involvement. I don't understand why they are not making a fuss? I don't see the police side of things though I'm sure they have some rationale related to safety, as always. Again, this is routine traffic encryption, not private or tactical groups. Not to mention, why does one large city opt not to encrypt and another does? I wonder what the money difference is at startup?

K
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Old 02-28-2014, 2:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hykenhyken View Post
I agree on the media involvement. I don't understand why they are not making a fuss? I don't see the police side of things though I'm sure they have some rationale related to safety, as always. Again, this is routine traffic encryption, not private or tactical groups. Not to mention, why does one large city opt not to encrypt and another does? I wonder what the money difference is at startup?

K
Usually the motives are political in nature when this type of encryption is put in place. Either the media pissed them off at some point or some deputy chief somewhere sees it as a way the department can "C.Y.A." so that something overheard on the radio won't come back to haunt them later. They will SAY it's because anyone with a cell phone can listen in on the live feeds but really that's just an excuse I think.

As for additional start up costs, I don't think there really is any. Most police departments do NEED some encryption in place for detectives, SWAT, etc. anyway, so the capability is built in from the get go as part of the RFP. Once it's in place, it's literally a mouseclick away to encrypt whatever they want to.

It's interesting that they emailed you to tell you this. It's my guess that your feed has provided them with the convenient excuse they needed in order to shut the public out. As I said, the media should raise holy hell over this. If they don't then perhaps part of the deal is that the news stations will get some receive only radios with a limited selection of talkgroups programmed that can be "silenced" at will if something goes down that the department feels the media doesn't need to know about. This has happened in other markets (news speak for geographic areas) in the country. What's even more dastardly is with such a thing in place, if a photog from channel so-and-so shows up at the wrong place at the wrong time, it's just another mouse click away to "brick" their radio for a while in response and then feign ignorance when the station calls them up to complain that their PD radio stopped working. That's happened before too.

I wish these departments would stop seeing the media (and the general public) as the enemy. I've helped the cops on more occasions than most people have because I've been out and about and LISTENING in to their communications as part of what I do. So if they're looking for a white chevy Tahoe with spinners and a license plate that says "Gangsta" on it and I happen to see it, I can call it in. Wouldn't be able to do that if everything was encrypted.

-AZ
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Old 02-28-2014, 3:58 PM
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Very well said AZ!
Ken
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Old 02-28-2014, 4:51 PM
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It does cost more money per unit for encryption.
The radios ship with basic features, for additional features you have to pay. You can be sure that Each portable, AND mobile will cost more per unit just to add the feature.

Also dont forget, the more you add to it the less reliable it becomes.
Any slight interference or weak transmission on these new Digital systems immediately becomes unintelligible, now add encryption to the layer and it increases the likely hood of the transmission failing to decode properly.
Increase the footprint size of the system and you get more potential bad spots, add large buildings and same thing.. Then the city will magically want to spend a few billion more trying to fix it.
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Old 02-28-2014, 5:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IAmSixNine View Post
It does cost more money per unit for encryption.
The radios ship with basic features, for additional features you have to pay. You can be sure that Each portable, AND mobile will cost more per unit just to add the feature.
You're right, but it's really not a big deal. Instead of $2500 per portable, they pay 2750. Again, not a big deal when the city has millions to spend.

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Also dont forget, the more you add to it the less reliable it becomes.
Any slight interference or weak transmission on these new Digital systems immediately becomes unintelligible, now add encryption to the layer and it increases the likely hood of the transmission failing to decode properly.
Increase the footprint size of the system and you get more potential bad spots, add large buildings and same thing.. Then the city will magically want to spend a few billion more trying to fix it.
Yes and no. If a P25 radio can't properly decode a signal because they are in a fringe area, having encryption on or off really won't change things. It's all just bits of data either way and the radio will work exactly the same in that scenario, whether it's encrypted or not. Most of the money cities spend on post installation activity is because the vendor originally told them that if you want X amount of coverage you need to spend X amount of dollars to buy the necessary equipment. Then the city lowballs it, makes them implement the system for cheaper, and then they find out the hard way that they have to go back and buy the additional equipment the vendor recommended in the first place.

There have been instances out here in Phoenix where the encryption failed and they had to go unsecure while it was fixed. That happened just the other day in fact. So it can happen. But it's very rare.

-AZ
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Old 02-28-2014, 5:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hykenhyken View Post
100% agree. I can just hear police and city officials spouting off about officer safety. Sort of like when politicians rant about "It's about the children". It makes me sick! Never mind that I have monitored scanners for 35 years and can relay countless times of law enforcement assist because I or friends knew what was happening in their neighborhood or city. I'm sure they would bring up that the criminal element is using their smart phones to listen to us on the internet, we can't have that. Never mind that broadcast of "routine" traffic is delayed anywhere from 45 sec to 2 min. Never mind the fact that a typical rodent is not gonna be carrying a $500 scanner with him to listen in to the po po.....not that they could figure it out.

These actions by these so called leaders in our cities really gives me pause and just sickens me. They really believe keeping routine comms secretive is the way to go and can't think outside of the proverbial box. How did they ever survive the last 75 or so years, back when we were buying crystals to monitor them. How dare we listen?

K
Police may succeed in shutting the public out at some point, but those same phones they may use as a reason for doing so are also being used to videotape their behavior, which they will have a hard time stopping. Everyone has a phone, and videos are already all over Utube.
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Old 02-28-2014, 10:13 PM
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Quote:
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Either the media pissed them off at some point
BINGO!!!

Sad thing is the group isn't technically "Media" ether.

Keep in mind, those providing feeds are also supplying the feeds to most of the cell phone Apps too and may not be aware of it.

The problem is because the ability to stream is out there. If people want to scan then they need to purchase their own radio and use it in their own privacy. I know I didn't buy a $600 scanner just to share it with the public for free. Because of the this ability it has put agencies on edge when you have taken just a couple hundred people equipped with scanners and now have tripled if to a few thousand with access who may misuse the information and with social media it can cause problems with officer and first responder safety. Trust me, I can vouch for this first hand. So the problem is not people owning scanners and the ability to scan. It the misuse of information that has tripled because of the ability to stream.
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Old 02-28-2014, 10:51 PM
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With all due respect, I beg to differ. I and maybe you, have been in this for a long time. Long before anyone ever thought of streaming agencies routine traffic. Police, not fire, police have always disliked the fact that there were citizens out there that had the ability to listen to their traffic. For whatever psychological reasons, law enforcement has this 'us against them' mind set and being able to hear exactly, in real time, what they are conversing about has always bothered them.

Never mind the fact that these broadcast are delayed for "X" amount of time before streaming. The fundamental argument against those who are head strong about encryption on routine talk groups is the following: Why are so many agencies opting NOT to encrypt, most on the same systems that their brother agencies ARE encrypting. They always fall back on "Safety", never mind the fact that there is no documented evidence of officer/fire safety or injuries related to somebody listening to a scanner or smart phone streaming a delayed signal. The vendors usually offer discounts up front, so costs usually aren't the issue. If you go to youtube and search P25, you will watch P25 vendors selling encryption, one of the main selling points is stopping scanner owners from listening in...check it out.

In my opinion, these police agencies that are opting in are covert/secret police forces with very little accountability to the people they serve. Many of these agencies have had bad experiences with the media who listen to their every move. What about prosecutions of bad cops/bad scenes, the traffic that was broadcast at that moment...good luck with open records filings. There are so many issues and so few people fighting this, it seems.

Sorry for the rant and no offense to anybody!
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Old 02-28-2014, 11:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hykenhyken View Post
They always fall back on "Safety", never mind the fact that there is no documented evidence of officer/fire safety or injuries related to somebody listening to a scanner or smart phone streaming a delayed signal.
Actually there is, at least around here and Garland will be the first to tell you.
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Old 02-28-2014, 11:25 PM
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I have not found any posted evidence directly tied to what we are talking about. I would assume if this was such a big issue, that many if not all agencies on this system would be encrypted assuming cost is not a big issue and it usually isn't these days...sad to say. Not to mention, what is the rationale for encrypting Fire? EMS to ER patient reports don't include any id info on patients en route. What is the safety issue for fire personnel?

I have known to many police officers and supervisors over the decades, they tend to get paranoid on many subjects, most unfounded.

Thanks for your input, I think we are all on the same page.

Where does it stop? Never ending desire to keep public information secret and away from the peasants...all in the name of safety or the children or plug in any emotional response.

K
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Old 03-01-2014, 12:19 AM
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A lot of the incidents will not be documented and if it is then it is for internal affairs records and not for public release. Mainly because there really isn't a way for them to document it or stop it other than going encrypted without state and national gov getting involved which will never happen. If you have noticed. Uniden has made it very difficult to stream with these new radios and are really hush hush by how the App is going to work. You then have the social media which traffic travels very fast through and a few curious Georges who show up on scene that don't know any better causing issues for first responders. The thing with Fire/EMS being encrypted is most agencies don't have direct comms between PD and Fire. Fire/EMS will run med calls for suicides, domestics, ODs which can leak information over these channels. Then next thing you know is now patient privacy has been compromised even though names were not given you have noisy Nancy's across the street posting on Facebook that they heard on a stream that Joe Smith just committed suicide and now the entire world has known and sometimes without family even being notified first. I have seen this happen before too. That's why when you hear media report certain stories they will say names have not been released. That is for several reasons. I mean what a horrible way to learn that your loved one was killed by reading a post on Facebook because some stranger posted it. There are two sides to that coin as some would like to known ASAP but, it is moral thing if anything.

The problem is the bad apples that are ruining it for everyone else. For the record I am not against streaming but being around the public safety field I can see where agencies are coming from because there are those who spoil and ruin it for the rest of us that are not abusing the information.

I can tell you if you were LEO and you were responding to a domestic disturbance call and you showed up to a barrage of gun fire because a 13 yr old kid was listening to an app and posting PDs every move on Facebook you would be a little on edge too. Yes, this has happened.

Another incident is Collin Co Sheriff was in pursuant of a suspect who bailed on foot into the woods. Suspect had apple headphones in listening to DPS. DPS 101 was guiding deputies on the ground in on suspect location from thermal camera. Suspect was able to avoid deputies for a while because he was able to stay one step ahead of them. It wasn't until the suspect moved his location and a bush pulled the headset out of the phone and traffic came over the phone that tipped off deputies on his location and they were able to take the suspect into custody.

I know here in Mesquite they will move all sensitive traffic to back channels (or alternative TGIDs) which can't be heard on feeds due to the restrictions set. If only more agencies had protocol like this it would help curb a lot of information that gets into the wrong hands of the public through streams.
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Old 03-01-2014, 12:26 AM
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Easy. Dispatch channels in clear. TAC channels encrypted.

This makes me proud of my home town that went NEXEDGE. They still simulcast their dispatch channels on analog so the people with scanners can hear both PD and FD to see what is going on.
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Old 03-01-2014, 8:14 AM
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So, what I hear some saying is that we should trust govt to release to us what they think we should know? This is one of those...every time there is a shooting, lets make more restrictive gun laws. Some will always jump at the first chance to take away something. I heard two different suicide attempts yesterday, address's broadcast in the clear. What does that mean? I could care less, it's just information. If it was a family member, odds are we knew it was a possibility anyway. The agencies aren't stupid, they know when to move to a talk-a-round group or to use their cell phone. They do both in Arlington all the time.

Bottom line, I'm just not comfortable with local govt agencies in which all their comms are 100% off-line. Also, if they were honest about their reasons....it still wouldn't set better but I would have more respect, but for these guys with brass on their shoulders to make up this crap about blah blah blah, it just is complete BS.

Does this really make officers safer? In the grand scheme of things? Again, why do so many cities opt not to encrypt when they have the chance to do so? Things are usually blown out of proportion, one incident happens in a PD, say a patrol cop realizes a gang banger was listening to his smart phone scanner before he arrives. This one incident is then heralded for many months as the way it is. How many times does a cop show up to a drug house, not knowing it is a drug house and get blown away hollywood style, with a guy with a uzi in one hand and a cell phone in the other pressed to his ear?

If you know or have police who are family/friends, then you realize their mindset changes as soon as they are sworn into that culture. It is 'us against them' and THEM don't need to know anything about what we are doing. That paints a broad brush, but most will shake their heads up and down with this statement.

Is this a liberty issue? Do we have a right as tax paying citizens in our local communities to know what is going on in our local govt, even if it poses a small risk to those govt employees? Or, should we trust them or the media to tell us at some point what they think we should hear?

K
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Old 03-01-2014, 9:33 AM
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I ran across this post showing this article about the police being monitored. In this case, they police were clearly in the wrong. So, if anyone decides to go to the city council to say their piece about the need for clear channels, you might make reference to this occurrence. At present, I have two routes I travel on IH35, 35E & 35W. I can assure you that I won't be frequenting the cities along the 35W route. Jackson, MS Police may have questions to answer thanks to Scanner Recordings!
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