Findlay Police Department to Encrypt Radio Communications

Status
Not open for further replies.

AMDXP

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
May 5, 2006
Messages
264
Location
Rawson, OH
City police to silence radio traffic - Thursday, March 18, 2010 | Courier Electronic Edition - Findlay, Ohio: LOCAL NEWS


City police to silence radio traffic


By JORDAN CRAVENS and JOY BROWN

City police are planning on keeping their live radio communications a secret.

When Findlay joins the state's Multi-Agency Radio Communications System, likely within the next month, the police department plans to encrypt radio communications of "everyday operations" so they can't be understood on radio scanners.

It's an effort to improve officer safety and to prevent criminals from using scanners to avoid arrest, according to Sgt. Randy Digby of the Findlay Police Department.

"Everyone in 'scannerland' hears everything," said Findlay Safety Director Jim Barker. "A couple of investigations have been compromised because of people knowing what the police department is doing."

Digby said all general dispatch communications will be encoded. People with scanners will hear a squawking noise and will not be able to understand what is being said.

The planned encryption has Hancock County Sheriff Michael Heldman concerned, given that the state radio system was designed to allow multiple agencies to be able to communicate better.

"If they are encrypted, we won't be able to hear what they are doing," Heldman said
================ SEE LINK FOR REMAINDER OF STORY============



I thought it might be good for this to be in it's own thread for discussion.



This thread begins where original thread discussion the rumor left off: http://forums.radioreference.com/ohio-radio-discussion-forum/173283-some-disturbing-news.htm
 
Last edited:

jambo

Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2004
Messages
253
Location
Phoenix, AZ
It just amazes me how these small towns use the excuse that it's for officer safety. It's always about them, and who cares for the average citizen they're supposed to protect and serve. In fact they blame the citizens for their descission to encrypt their radios. Anybody who carrries a gun with them everywhere they go, doesn't feel safe, should see a doctor. It's us that need to worry when they start talking like that.
 

JD72305

Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2008
Messages
38
I think this is just a shame. I wonder if there is anything that we can do to go from here as far as swaying the choice. They stated in the article it will be Chief's choice to go 100% encrypted. Also I find it funny that in the comment section below, Randy made a comment about the radio being available on the internet and put up by a private citizen. I think that's kind of a low blow because people have been doing that for years now and I am sure that he has used that type of listening choice. Just sad.
 

rdale

Completely Banned for the Greater Good
Feed Provider
Joined
Feb 3, 2001
Messages
11,380
Location
Lansing, MI
Lansing MI, I'll be staying with you!!!
Good to hear! Nothing is encrypted other than the sting-related activity, so you shouldn't be dealing with this issue again. PM me when you're out of Findlay and keep in touch about the move.
 

Dubbin

Member
Feed Provider
Joined
Dec 19, 2002
Messages
4,479
Location
Findlay Ohio
Findlay police pledge to keep public informed
By JOY BROWN

STAFF WRITER

Findlay officials say that fully encrypting their new radios on May 3 will not staunch the flow of information from the police department because they will use other methods to get the word out.

The main reason for silencing radio scanner traffic from the police department has to do with officer safety, officials say. Criminals are using advanced technology to monitor police activity, undermining crime-fighting tactics and giving suspects more time to flee and hide, officials say.

But police scanner silence will mean citizens, and the media, won't know what police are up to either.

Jim Barker, city safety director, said he doesn't anticipate the silence will be absolute.

"Anything that's going to be of any magnitude, we have the ability to unencrypt, and we would," Barker said. "Certainly something like a big flood won't be encrypted because we'll want folks to hear what's going on. It will be the (police shift) supervisor's call" to unencrypt, he said.

The city also intends to rely on an automated phone calling system to communicate with the public in emergency situations, although it has yet to be been installed. Findlay was promised $23,278 from a Department of Homeland Security grant to install and fund the system's operations for one year. The state is distributing the money, but hasn't released it, Barker said.

Officials were hoping the phone calling system would be up and running by late spring. It is unclear whether it will be operating by May 3 when police begin using their new radio system.

When the calling system is installed, police, administrators and some emergency responders will be able to call land lines and cell phones registered within Findlay's boundaries. People will hear a recorded message alerting them of incidents like weather-related emergencies, fuel spills and criminal activity, and give them instructions on how to respond.

The system can also make targeted calls to certain neighborhoods and sections of the city.

"This will be great for reporting a lost child, bomb scares, anything that blocks an intersection or impedes traffic," Barker said. The system will be used "in conjunction with notifying the media," he said.

"I think everybody's getting all wound up for no reason," said Findlay Acting Police Chief Greg Horne about criticism he has received for going to full radio encryption. He said the department has been considering the option for a long time.

"Everything is going to be just like it is now, just not the ability to listen to the scanner," Horne said.

"It's not about keeping anything from the press. We'll really, really have to be sure to be extra aware that the sergeants put out updates (for the press and public). Even if they just have a little bit of information on something, they need to get that out," Horne said. "If we don't, you're just going to get your info some other way, so it's in our best interest to keep you informed.

"We want to keep a good relationship with the press. It doesn't do us any good for us to fight with (the press). (They) have the right to know what's going on," he said.

Protocols involving encryption are still being worked out, Barker said. "We may find that once we go forward with it (full encryption), it's not suitable for everything."

When asked why police departments in cities with much higher crime rates, like Columbus and Toledo, have not opted to fully encrypt their radios, Horne said he did not know. He also said when considering the change, he and others did not converse with other departments that have already done it.

"We looked at this very carefully. We're trying to be proactive and adapt to a changing world. This was well thought out," said Findlay Police Department Officer Randy Digby, who is helping program the new radio system. "It was a difficult decision, but the world we live in now is not like it used to be."
 

AMDXP

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
May 5, 2006
Messages
264
Location
Rawson, OH
Officials say encryption needed to fight modern-day criminals



By JOY BROWN

STAFF WRITER

A Findlay bank robbery was once foiled because police did not use their radios.

According to Jim Barker, city safety director, would-be robbers had entered Millstream Area Credit Union after hours, but were nabbed by Findlay police, who received a call from a credit union worker who had happened to stop by the bank that day.

Officers were then dispatched in person from the police department instead of summoned by radio. If radios had been used, the crooks would have had time to flee before police arrived because their "lookout" had a portable radio scanner in hand, Barker said.

Barker used that example, and several others, to explain why the Findlay Police Department has decided to fully encrypt its new radios. People outside of the police department who have a radio scanner will not be able to hear any police communications unless the department chooses to flip a switch and let them.

That means communications about everything from barking dog complaints to shootouts won't be heard by anyone but police.

The police department is expected to go live on the Multi-Agency Radio Communications System at 9:05 a.m. Monday, May 3, according to Randy Digby, a Findlay Police Department officer.

The radio system allows operators throughout Ohio to communicate with each other.

The attempted bank robbery was not an isolated incident, Barker said.

"It has become fairly common that we have either investigated or made arrests on (break-ins) where the suspects have been listening to scanners," Barker said.

"Just (Tuesday) afternoon, an officer was going to pick up a suspect who had an arrest warrant. They had gotten word that this person was home. An officer called over the radio and he told dispatch he was en route to a given address. Eight minutes later, that officer arrived to find that the suspect is gone," Barker said. Someone, either the suspect or a friend or family member, heard via scanner traffic that an officer was on the way, Barker said.

He said police are investigating information they've received about suspects and criminals using scanners to keep tabs on police shift changes, to determine how many officers are working, and to identify which officers are on patrol. Some suspects can recognize officers by the sound of their voices, Barker said.

"We have spoken with suspects in drug cases that have stated they listen to scanner traffic to find out if (Officer Brian) Deeter is working with the canine on any given day or night," said Barker.

"When they hear '428' sign on, they're like, 'OK, the dog's out," Digby said. "Things have changed a lot" in terms of criminals adapting to newer technology and police tactics, Digby said.

In 1998, a man barricaded himself in his Findlay home and fired a weapon several times. Officers shot and injured the man during a confrontation after he stepped out of his home. "During the negotiation process he relayed repeatedly that he knew where the (police) units were deployed by listening to the scanner traffic," Barker said.

This month, Barker said, officers responded to a suicidal man with a handgun. After taking him into custody, police found he had three scanners in his home to monitor police traffic.

Last November, Barker said, police were investigating an armed robbery at Vito's Pizza on North Main Street. Officers learned the suspect "had an accomplice that was listening to a police scanner and was calling the suspect on his cell phone to give him updates on what evidence had been recovered and where the officers were looking for him as he hid from the police," Barker said.

Technology is making it increasingly easier for criminals to monitor and predict police movements and investigations, according to Barker.

During an interview last week, Barker tuned into a Web site that streams Columbus police scanner traffic. Dispatchers at the time were helping direct a helicopter where to search for a suspect. The Web site showed 40 people were logged in and listening.

Findlay's police scanner traffic, along with hundreds of other departments' traffic, is also live streamed on the Web.

Cell phones with Internet access make scanner monitoring even more portable, Barker said.

Earlier this month, Barker said, the police department was warned about an application now available for smartphones that relays scanner traffic and can map where that traffic is broadcasting from.

"It comes up like a street map," he said.

Barker said he doesn't think full encryption will negatively affect regular citizens, particularly if they cannot hear about "day-to-day" activities that don't involve major crimes, like non-injury car accidents, he said.

Sometimes, listening to scanner traffic promotes inaccurate perceptions of what is happening, because initial reports are not clear or erroneous, he said.

Rarely does listening to the scanner result in a citizen offering good information about a crime, Barker said.

A search of all police reports and calls from March 23 and 24 revealed 13 separate times that it was reported by citizens, or discovered by officers, that suspects were monitoring radio traffic with scanners during investigations, he said. During the same time period there was only one occasion when a citizen provided usable information after hearing scanner traffic, Barker said.
 

AMDXP

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
May 5, 2006
Messages
264
Location
Rawson, OH
The police department is expected to go live on the Multi-Agency Radio Communications System at 9:05 a.m. Monday, May 3, according to Randy Digby, a Findlay Police Department officer.
And I won't be home to hit the lockout button when all those unknown encrypted talkgroups start popping up.:mad:
 

rdale

Completely Banned for the Greater Good
Feed Provider
Joined
Feb 3, 2001
Messages
11,380
Location
Lansing, MI
Good scanners skip them automatically, that way you hear when they are not encrypted.
 

CVPI4Ever

Member
Joined
Nov 7, 2004
Messages
842
Location
Ohio
IAnybody who carrries a gun with them everywhere they go, doesn't feel safe, should see a doctor.
Excuse me? I have an Ohio Concealed Handgun license and carry 98% of the time. I do it for my safety and that of my loved ones.

Remember, when seconds count, the police are minutes away. In Columbus, it could be a few dozen minutes.
 

hoser147

Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2005
Messages
4,452
Location
Grand Lake St. Marys Ohio
Sorry to hear all this for the Findlay scanists. Interesting prepared statement by Mr Barker stats to back up the claims would have been nice lol. Goes back to "In God we Trust, all others we monitor". Day to Day traffic is pretty well public knowledge anyway so whats with all the secrecy? All for officer safety but as usual things get stretched way out there. There are other departments that get along fine with out being fully encrypted. Another fine example of Transparency in Government.
 

radioscan

Radio Sensei
Database Admin
Joined
Aug 15, 2001
Messages
2,063
Location
Butler County, Ohio
There may be a chance of causing some changes for the better by putting pressure on them by flooding the local editorial sections be it newspaper, websites and whatever else. Hammer on the fact they are hiding from the taxpaying public that allows them to operate such a system. If enough pressure is brought to bear and perhaps some local media picks up on it, they may at least unencrypt the dispatch talkgroups. Just a thought anyway.
 

cfr301

Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2009
Messages
297
Location
Wapakoneta Ohio
Sorry to hear all this for the Findlay scanists. Interesting prepared statement by Mr Barker stats to back up the claims would have been nice lol. Goes back to "In God we Trust, all others we monitor". Day to Day traffic is pretty well public knowledge anyway so whats with all the secrecy? All for officer safety but as usual things get stretched way out there. There are other departments that get along fine with out being fully encrypted. Another fine example of Transparency in Government.
A couple of things stand out here to me. ! What do they have to hide? and WHO do they serve? I'm all for secret Squirrel on ops stuff, but HIDING your common calls leaves the impression that somebody has something to hide. It seems that the public's right to know is being cloaked in a very suspicious veil of secrecy, not to mention the additional cost to use Encryption on EVERY radio.

I have to agree pressure is needed to change this and it should start at the ballot box, City council has elections every year or so, phone calls to councilors telling them fix this or we will replace you with somebody who will would get some action I believe!!!

Rick
 

wa8pyr

Technischer Guru
Lead Database Admin
Joined
Sep 22, 2002
Messages
5,212
Location
Ohio
A couple of things stand out here to me. ! What do they have to hide? and WHO do they serve? I'm all for secret Squirrel on ops stuff, but HIDING your common calls leaves the impression that somebody has something to hide. It seems that the public's right to know is being cloaked in a very suspicious veil of secrecy, not to mention the additional cost to use Encryption on EVERY radio
They aren't trying to hide anything from the public. I think it's been pretty self-explanatory in the various news stories that they're concerned about officer safety and the bad guys making a clean getaway because they overheard the dispatch message; both are valid concerns. The fact that they are encrypting their dispatch signals to accomplish this has the unfortunate side effect of locking out law-abiding listeners as well, and it's pretty clear to me from the aforementioned news stories that it's something they wish they didn't have to do but regrettably feel they must.

I have to agree pressure is needed to change this and it should start at the ballot box, City council has elections every year or so, phone calls to councilors telling them fix this or we will replace you with somebody who will would get some action I believe!!!
Give it a try, but when it comes to officer safety versus "eavesdroppers" (as we're often portrayed in the media) listening in, officer safety will win every time, and the plain and simple fact of the matter is that they are well within their rights to encrypt their signals and there isn't much anyone can do about it.

That being said, there are methods the PD can take to obscure certain dispatch messages while keeping the majority of activity in the clear; two of the most common are (assuming Dispatch in the clear and Tac encrypted):

1. Use mobile data computers and when dispatching sensitive calls, advise responding units to "Check your computer for a run" (without giving the location or nature) and/or,
2. If proper CAD and MDCs are outside the budget possibilities, simply advise responding units when dispatching sensitive calls to "Go to Tac for a run" and give it to them on the encrypted channel.

Using one of these options or a combination of the two would balance the need of the PD for officer safety with the desire of the public to monitor the daily happenings of their police department.

So give it a try with City Council, but whatever you do, DON'T just parade in there and scream about being denied your rights to listen to the police department you pay for. Craft a well-thought-out counterpoint to their position, mention the very real contributions of citizens who serve as additional "eyes and ears" for the police, offer the options above as alternatives which would serve everyone's interests, and engage them in discussion. Don't just bluster and make threats as that will definitely brand you as one of the minority kooks so often described in the media, and you'll get exactly nowhere.
 
Last edited:

mdulrich

Member
Feed Provider
Joined
Dec 9, 2002
Messages
1,614
Location
Van Wert, Ohio
I agree with Rick on this one. I would be contacting my council people and mayor. And letters to the editor wouldn't hurt either. Findlay has been in some fiscal trouble lately and had to look to the citizens to keep employees from being layed off. How is it now fiscally sound to spend money on full encryption? I would point out that large metro areas, Toledo, Columbus, Cincinatti, LA, New York, etc. have more serious officer safety issues and they aren't fully encrypted. I would point out that you have no problems with encrypting TAC talkgroups, but day to day operations should be in the clear.

And speaking of officer safety, to keep the SO and FD from monitoring PD traffic is a safety issue for them. I know when I was on the FD in Lima I kept LPD and ACSO in my scan list. I didn't want to turn the corner and be first on scene of shots fired. :wink:

Mike
 

grumpy_hermit

Member
Joined
Jan 28, 2009
Messages
381
Location
Ohio
That being said, there are methods the PD can take to obscure certain dispatch messages while keeping the majority of activity in the clear; two of the most common are (assuming Dispatch in the clear and Tac encrypted):

1. Use mobile data computers and when dispatching sensitive calls, advise responding units to "Check your computer for a run" (without giving the location or nature) and/or,
2. If proper CAD and MDCs are outside the budget possibilities, simply advise responding units when dispatching sensitive calls to "Go to Tac for a run" and give it to them on the encrypted channel.
Option 1 wouldn't be practical as a standalone solution because officers that are not in their vehicle would be out of the loop. There are many reasons that an officer wouldn't have access to a MDT, such as foot patrol, traffic control, security details, etc. It's also possible that detective units will not have terminals in their unmarked units. In each of these situations, the officer might be right around the corner from whatever is happening, not realize it and have no MDT access to receive the info.

Option 2 would be the most reasonable approach.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top