Defund Encryption

KK4JUG

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Dec 13, 2014
Messages
3,103
Location
GA, AL, TX, OK, KS, AR, NC, or MI
The analog VHF systems were great. They were easy to understand and they went a long way. You could get Vegas Metro PD all the way to the Baker grade. You could get Riverside Sheriff in Altadena. No distortions or fade outs, much better for big areas. I think Inyo County still runs everything on VHF.
Not always. I remember several places in town where no police transmissions could get in or out. Some of these areas really, really needed radio service. This was a 4-channel VHF repeater system.
 

hiegtx

Mentor
Premium Subscriber
Joined
May 8, 2004
Messages
7,409
Location
Dallas, TX
The problem with going back to the old days is everyone wants in-building coverage these days. In the 70's you may have had a portable, but you understood it was for traffic stops and probably wouldn't work in the station or the grocery store or the hospital or wherever else you went inside. These days if you turn up a single site system and it doesn't work inside the Walmart the agency screams it's an officer safety issue.. even though no coverage guarantee was given.

Add to that everyone wants a dispatch channel, a tac channel, a records channel and a supervisor channel, the days of a single site single channel system are long gone.

But that's just my viewpoint.
A good example of that can be seen here in the DFW metro area.

Look at FWRRS, which covers Fort Worth, and most Tarrant County cities, plus some other areas.

On that system, find Forest Hills, which has a population of just over 12,000. Yet they have 60+ TGIDs, including a large number of Tac & Talk IDs for PD & Fire. I suspect that they may have more than one for each PD or Fire officer on duty at any one time. (Yes, some of those are listed as 'backup', but it's still excessive.)

Compare that to North Richland Hills, population just over 70,000. They 'struggle along' with 2 dozen or so talkgroups listed under "Combined Dispatch", which are shared with Haltom City (44,000 population) and Watauga (~24,000).
 

mmckenna

I ♥ Ø
Joined
Jul 27, 2005
Messages
12,902
Location
SNCZCA01DS0
Because it's true. It's hard to beat a repeated VHF analog system. Modern systems are too complicated, require too many towers for equivalent coverage, often have issues with "logging in" and the list goes on. With analog when the signal gets weak you can still often make out what is being said.
Yep, that is exactly what we did. Took them off an 800MHz trunked system that didn't give them the coverage they needed and only allowed interoperability with adjacent agencies if a dispatcher did a patch. Moved them to a VHF Analog system with old Motorolas then to new Kenwoods, still on analog VHF. Coverage improved, interoperability restored. Still had to hear complaints.

The grass WAS always greener on the other side of the radio.
 

W9BU

Lead Wiki Manager
Super Moderator
Joined
Jul 18, 2004
Messages
6,299
Location
Central Indiana
You always heard both sides of the conversation but once in awhile they would throw the switch so you only heard the dispatcher and not the cars. Not sure why they did that but I know the cops didn't like it and the supervisors didn't like it. It had nothing to do with the public as I don't think too many people were listening.
The Marion County (Indiana) Sheriffs Department had a VHF repeater system. The county (403 square miles, mostly flat) was split in two administrative districts and each district had its own repeater pair with remote receivers. The dispatchers occasionally "turned off the repeater" which meant that anyone transmitting on the input frequency was not heard on the output frequency. The dispatchers were still heard on the output because they had wireline connections to the repeater.

Why did they do this? To protect private information. For example, if a deputy needed to call in the identification of an underage individual to get wants or warrants, the deputy would ask for the repeater to be turned off. Anyone within range of the deputy's handheld radio, including the remote receivers, could still hear the private information, but it didn't go out to the whole county. It was not a perfect solution, but it worked fairly well in an era before encryption or cell phones.
 

trentbob

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Feb 22, 2007
Messages
2,021
Location
Bristol, Pa.
The Marion County (Indiana) Sheriffs Department had a VHF repeater system. The county (403 square miles, mostly flat) was split in two administrative districts and each district had its own repeater pair with remote receivers. The dispatchers occasionally "turned off the repeater" which meant that anyone transmitting on the input frequency was not heard on the output frequency. The dispatchers were still heard on the output because they had wireline connections to the repeater.

Why did they do this? To protect private information. For example, if a deputy needed to call in the identification of an underage individual to get wants or warrants, the deputy would ask for the repeater to be turned off. Anyone within range of the deputy's handheld radio, including the remote receivers, could still hear the private information, but it didn't go out to the whole county. It was not a perfect solution, but it worked fairly well in an era before encryption or cell phones.
Yep, when I said throw the switch I actually was referring to turning off the repeater so only the output frequency could be heard and I guess it was effective in securing information countywide.

This of course was right before programmable scanners came into being and with the scanners then you were basically limited to 8 to 10 channels so there was no wasting $5 on crystals of just the input frequencies and they'd have to be pretty close to hear them anyway.

I know the Grass Is Always Greener, as Kevin had pointed out what would be the performance of the VHF repeaters on portables in buildings which then was not an issue as the average patrolman did not carry a portable radio even though they were used in some applications. An extensive call box system was still used in those days.

There is the Nostalgia Factor, especially in mobile applications but then again I really preferred VHF low-band simplex systems also so I'm a bit of a dinosaur. At least you could tell if a car was in your immediate area as opposed to not close at all. LOL
 

jaymatt1978

Member
Joined
May 18, 2003
Messages
1,697
Location
Cape May,NJ
I going to be the spoiler in the group and say you have the "defund the police" movement on one side and calls for more transparency. You know if folks were really smart, they would call for the end of encrypting MAIN dispatch channels. mPersonally I think this is a greast compromise
 

KK4JUG

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Dec 13, 2014
Messages
3,103
Location
GA, AL, TX, OK, KS, AR, NC, or MI
I going to be the spoiler in the group and say you have the "defund the police" movement on one side and calls for more transparency. You know if folks were really smart, they would call for the end of encrypting MAIN dispatch channels. mPersonally I think this is a greast compromise
That's not so far-fetched. I suggested that removing encryption would go a long way toward transparency back in post #2.
 

trentbob

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Feb 22, 2007
Messages
2,021
Location
Bristol, Pa.
Yes as has been said here defunding encryption itself is not the idea, to do that you would need to defund the police. When new systems are built and radios are purchased at very high cost the actual encrypting or not cost nothing. It's in the radios already and it doesn't cost anything to throw a switch.

Those who are calling for defunding police are a small minority of... don't know what to call them but they're not public servants even though they were elected to be. If it was ever actually carried out which it won't be it would cause an increase in crime and violence in their City and even more of an exodus of the law-abiding taxpayers.

My county is a good model to use. The county controls the Radio Room and there's three supervisors and they make that decision in consultation with the association of chiefs of police in the county

The policy in writing is dispatch will be in the clear, 5 Tac channels will be in the clear. Every Zone has an Ops Channel that is encrypted if they want to use it for an event. An individual officer can even put his radio on encryption to mask sensitive information then returns it to normal when he's done. Some guys leave their radio on encrypted all the time and are reminded by the dispatcher to return the radio to normal per policy. Let's face it they use cell phones and mdt's anyway.

When the virus hit the Chiefs asked to go full-time encryption and the supervisor said NO! But with the civil unrest approved full-time temporarily that will be changed tomorrow morning at 0600. Policy returns to normal.

Every single bailiwick is different. The idea of defunding anyting that has to do with the police makes no sense at all. Hats off to those who support anarchy and lawlessness, it's your city, you govern it. The citizens can decide if they want to live there or not.

If your goal is to increase the population with people that have good paying jobs and contribute taxes and culture to your city, thereby enriching it to the point it excels. The defunding anything that has to do with police does not make sense.

More training, changes in policy, more selectiveness and quality of officer does make sense.

Whether a department goes encrypted or not will always be a roll of the dice we have no control over.
 

N1KK

Member
Joined
Jun 17, 2010
Messages
70
Good discussion. I've been a member and occasional lurker for a long time, and I usually never enter the fray.

To be transparent here, I'm a hobbyist (I grew up listening to my dad run EMS calls on a 4 channel crystal scanner), but I also spend a little money and time on streaming feeds to BCFY for others to listen to online. I have to admit my bias. Also, I'm neither from nor live in California. I just happened to see this pop up in the active feeds.

My city and our big sister city's PDs are encrypted across the board. The state police and county sheriff's dispatch traffic are not. We tried to resist this when it went into effect, but city governments tend to defer to their PDs authority in these cases. The arguments were made by these two city PDs that they didn't want perps listening in on cell phone apps to real time traffic. While that argument my have merit in some isolated cases, the effect of keeping this information from the public and especially the press has caused a lack of ability for reporters to cover the PD in real time. One particular PD has been in turmoil for some time due to high turnover, violent crime rates, a questionable officer-involved shooting, the firing and reinstatement of that officer, and now that same department's response to protests. I believe that the residents of that city have a good case to appeal to the Mayor and Council to take steps to remove encryption from dispatch and normal operations traffic. Police in general are under a lot of scrutiny right now, and rightfully so. We give law enforcement a tremendous amount of authority and funding. I believe that giving the public and the press access to dispatch traffic and making sure that police traffic occurs over the provided LMR network would be a step in the right direction if these departments want to regain the public's trust. Since they began encrypting all traffic, the PDs control all of the information that makes it out of the department to the public. In situations like the officer-involved-shooting that I mentioned above, that gives the PD and city government a chance to get out ahead of the story or stonewall it altogether. Sure, the encrypted radio traffic can be FOIAd after the fact, and frequently is by watchdog groups and the press. Unless someone is killed, a video turns up, enough people saw something questionable happen, or a reporter just has a hunch, it is hard to know when and what to FOIA.

There is no question that local and state governments have the power to tell the departments that they fund how to operate. That includes how they communicate. That includes encrypting radio traffic and using their own cellular devices in the course of doing what the government pays them to do. Also, all four of the departments that I mentioned above use the same statewide P25 network that was built after the state legislature approved the funds and the governor signed it into law. The state government maintains the network, and that gives the legislature and governor a say in how it is used. The purse strings are a big determining factor, and as a matter of fact, since the federal government provides matching funds, grants, equipment, etc. to the states and locals, they may have a say in the matter as well.

This discussion really doesn't have much to do with the FCC, who really doesn't care what happens on licensed frequencies so long as the licensees adhere to the rules concerning power, number of users, antennas, bandwidth, and when/how they ID their stations. As far as I know, the only restrictions the FCC enforces on encryption occur in the amateur and possibly broadcast bands.

It seems that many present our oversight of law enforcement in a very restrictive, binary way. That's unfortunate. I hate to have to clarify, because I believe that it is kind of insulting to readers capable of abstract thought, and I honestly don't believe that I should have to say it. Still, I am not anti law enforcement. I worked a couple years in EMS on night shift in some of the toughest neighborhoods that central Arkansas has to offer, and still do work in emergency medicine. I know a lot of LEOs in all these departments because I've worked a lot of scenes with them. I know the lion's share of them to be people like you and me who have a tough job, but also take the law and their oaths and responsibility to the citizens seriously. Just like any profession from burger flipper all the way up to CEO, there are some lazy and self-serving people in their ranks. If you put a badge and a gun on a pile of garbage, it is still a pile of garbage. There are also some truly awesome individuals in there, too. I've witnessed examples of all of these things. With the amount of power that we give them over our everyday lives, including the ability to use escalation of force all the way from verbal engagement up to lethal force, there is a need for broad oversight.

As mentioned above, the news media has changed so much that, unfortunately, providing them with radios isn't enough. I think that a lot of the decline of the traditional fourth estate is due to advertising and funding, but also a lot of it is due to politics in general where reporters have to clamor for access. Since I began streaming fire and EMS, I've taught a few reporters how to listen to the calls going out to determine where the news is. "Listen for the 27, 4, 29 codes and pay attention when the dispatcher tells a unit to hold back or hold short." Only a few print reporters were interested in that. Most of the television and many print reporters (including some of the big anti-cop sensationalists) didn't care to know how to listen. So it goes.

Right now the Police need some transparency to help calm things down. Removing encryption on at least the general call talkgroup would offer that.
Maybe some emails to legislators is in order?
Ken
 

ladn

Explorer of the Frequency Spectrum
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Oct 25, 2008
Messages
506
Location
Southern California and sometimes Owens Valley
With cable and public social media ...newspapers are dead. I will stand by the fact that we just reported the news without any political bias. The way things are now with the media it has affected the way the police release information to the media or want the media or anybody with a cell phone to respond to and record what they are doing. There is no longer that relationship and understanding between legitimate media and police that we had when I started.
My background is similar to yours. I grew up with scanners and worked my way up the media ladder partly because because of my news gathering skills with scanners. I cringe at the term "citizen journalists". Real journalists went to college and learned their trade, including journalistic ethics. There was a level of professional cooperation between public safety agencies and the media. It was a common practice for agencies to broadcast a "Code 20" to notify the media of a newsworthy event.

I'm on a slightly different career path now, and while I miss photojournalism, I don't miss dealing with undisciplined, nekulturny, wannabees and citizen journalists who invade crime scenes waving their cell phone cameras and home made press cards.

I think encryption has its place, not for everything, definitely not for the fire service, and not to hide from public scrutiny. I remember a number of years ago, in simpler radio times, when Motorola was pushing one of their analog encryption solutions and equated all scanner listeners with criminals. Apparently their message worked for some agencies.
 

darkness975

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Nov 4, 2016
Messages
680
I have a perfect example of why to keep them in the clear. I was driving to work, listening to LA Co. Sheriff. On the route I normally take, there was a protest taking place, so I took an alternate route. A couple minutes later, that protest turned violent and they started attacking cars in the street, completely destroying several.

That would have been me! I literally would have been stuck right in that mess and very likely been attacked. I had no other way of knowing what was going on, except for what I heard on the radio.
I've had similar situations both in the past and recently with current events.
 

trentbob

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Feb 22, 2007
Messages
2,021
Location
Bristol, Pa.
I'm just glad that now that things have settled down the Board of Supervisors of my County did turn encryption off this morning at 0600 per the policy in post 108. The civil unrest has gone away in my area, actually never had it in my suburban area.

Didn't cost them a dime to turn it on and didn't cost a dime to turn it off

The policy is in writing and they stood by it.

Of course they could change that at any time.

More transparency to the median, safer operations for volunteer firefighters who were not encrypted but could no longer hear the police and even the EMTs know what they're getting into now other than the limited information they're given on their non-encrypted system.
 

jaymatt1978

Member
Joined
May 18, 2003
Messages
1,697
Location
Cape May,NJ
BASICALLY Technology and everything aside the NEXT police department who requests to go encrypted, I'd say prove it. I literally could have stopped encryption on a main dispatch channel, any angency, in two minutes, maxium. I'd got up there and say before I approve encryptilon cite me ONE incident where encryption SAVED A LIFE of a Law Enforcement officer. Period end of discussion.

BOTTOM LINE: I support thepolice 100%! Are there bad cops. ABSOLUELTY! There are bad doctors, bad lawyers and bad teachers. This is a FACT of life folks! You folks against police encryption don't see a gift horse in the mouth. as a scanner listener right now I am literally jumping for joy I would go to any department who encrypts ALL their chhannels and ask WHY? I wouldn't argue, I wouldn't demand ALL communications be wide open. but I would ask WHY aren't most of their channels open. This isn't a "we have a right to listen speech", I'm too wise for that argument. Here's a study for you folks police brutality complaints vs radio encrytion. THAT NEEDS to be in this law enforcement reform debate
That's not so far-fetched. I suggested that removing encryption would go a long way toward transparency back in post #2.
 

citiot

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Feb 8, 2007
Messages
89
My Sheriff said that encryption doesn't add to the cost, so he's going to encrypt all talkgroups.
 

bill4long

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Aug 6, 2012
Messages
1,032
Location
Indiana
Mixed feelings. But the tie-breaker is this: I don't listen to police coms. And most people don't. So.
 

w4amp

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jan 3, 2013
Messages
341
Location
Dallas, Georgia
The Feds are the ones sending money to small departments for these digital radio networks. Do you really think they will let the taxpayers listen when they come get your firearms?
:unsure:
 
Top