• Effective immediately we will be deleting, without notice, any negative threads or posts that deal with the use of encryption and streaming of scanner audio.

    We've noticed a huge increase in rants and negative posts that revolve around agencies going to encryption due to the broadcasting of scanner audio on the internet. It's now worn out and continues to be the same recycled rants. These rants hijack the threads and derail the conversation. They no longer have a place anywhere on this forum other than in the designated threads in the Rants forum in the Tavern.

    If you violate these guidelines your post will be deleted without notice and an infraction will be issued. We are not against discussion of this issue. You just need to do it in the right place. For example:
    https://forums.radioreference.com/rants/224104-official-thread-live-audio-feeds-scanners-wait-encryption.html

Here's another one joining the encryption stampede

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W4UVV

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FYI here's another law enforcement entity joining the encryption stampede...the city of Strasburg, VA.

Today, I first read this editorial article posted on the Scan DC Net. I decided to access that same editorial published in the Northern Virginia Daily on August 17, 2018. I read how the local citizens felt about the city PD encrypting. No surprise they were the same as those in Chesterfield Co., Henrico Co. Richmond, Hanover Co. and all the other Virginia taxpaying monitoring citizens where encryption has silenced the public they serve and protect.

The Strasburg city Police Chief stated the reason was....wait for it..."Officer Safety". In my opinion, not exactly, there's more reason why as you read later.

I suppose this recent Strasburg's area citizen's monitoring help by providing the Strasburg City Police dispatcher by phone calls the latest sightings of the suspect's car as to what road he was on which allowed for a quick capture by the Strasburg city police. The suspect was the father who allegedly threw his 2 year old child in a creek and evading police.

From the newspaper editorial:

"We had numerous calls from the community; citizens, giving us updated locations on Mr. Sunday as he was fleeing from us and which helped us getting a good direction of travel in time to set up a perimeter around that location," Strasburg Police Chief Wayne Sager told the Northern Virginia Daily on Tuesday."

Wait a minute! Police Chief Sager then highly praised the individuals who monitored the city's PD calls! It looked like he wanted it both ways. I believe the appropriate description of that behavior is called "hypocritical" or in common slang "two faced".

That brings us back to the reason for encrypting is exclusively "officer safety" which obviously a very valid reason and not to be challenged. However, the amending argument for encrypting only TAC or Surveillance comms has valid merit also for accommodating public monitoring routine comms non-adversely impacting officer safety.

In my opinion, there is more to this recent rush to encrypt all radio system comms then just "officer safety".

Think about it. Common sense dictates that if "officer safety" was the only most important reason to encrypt, why have not the thousands of city, county and state police in this country encrypted all of their radio system comms years ago when the technology to encrypt was available?????.

Relook at the past 20 years in this country involving law enforcement. It is attacked almost daily for one political or other reason from various sources. These attacks typically get immediate 24/7 media/press coverage when certain events occur involving law enforcement. Then there are followup reports to follow up reports. This is the "elephant in the room".

In my opinion, I believe the second reason for the stampede encrypting all radio comms for "officer safety" is very simple.....LAWSUITS" or in slang "CYA".

Remember, with each radio system encrypting, little by little transparency in government at each whatever level is gone.

Editorial: Don’t silence the scanners | News, Sports, Jobs - The Northern Virginia Daily

John
W4UVV
 

Citywide173

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That brings us back to the reason for encrypting is exclusively "officer safety" which obviously a very valid reason and not to be challenged. However, the amending argument for encrypting only TAC or Surveillance comms has valid merit also for accommodating public monitoring routine comms non-adversely impacting officer safety.
Not a valid reason at all. Not one agency that has gone encrypted can provide proof of increased officer safety after encryption. Some here say that is trying to prove a negative, but it is not. injury rates, ABPO numbers and overall crime numbers have not appreciably changed (negative or positive) anywhere that has gone to encryption. If they had, you can bet that the chiefs of those departments would be screaming it from the rooftops. "Officer Safety" is something thought up by a salesperson to scare departments into purchasing more options or upgrading to a better quality radio. It's BS and I challenge anyone to provide numbers to disprove that.
 

W4UVV

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Many people think as you do

Not a valid reason at all. Not one agency that has gone encrypted can provide proof of increased officer safety after encryption. Some here say that is trying to prove a negative, but it is not. injury rates, ABPO numbers and overall crime numbers have not appreciably changed (negative or positive) anywhere that has gone to encryption. If they had, you can bet that the chiefs of those departments would be screaming it from the rooftops. "Officer Safety" is something thought up by a salesperson to scare departments into purchasing more options or upgrading to a better quality radio. It's BS and I challenge anyone to provide numbers to disprove that.
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I agree with most of your comments. However, I think officer safety definitely is a subject of concern but not to the degree it has been touted to encrypt. It basically infers it is the only reason necessary..end of discussion. I disagree. But I also think the fear of potential lawsuits is of as much concern, if not more, than the "officer safety" excuse. Either way total encryption sucks!

John
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Citywide173

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I'm not saying that officer safety is not a concern, just that the claim that encryption provides it is and I think we're agreeing, just wording it differently. If a system is run properly there is no need for blanket encryption.
 

Eugene

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If you look at the stats...of which I have, and have posted in other areas....2016 and 2017 (according to the FBI UCR) officer assaults and non-accidental fatalities have increased from 2014 and 2015 (where they remained stable). Also a Newsweek article published, I think in April 2018, stated officer assaults up 20% so far in 2018. Sounds like an inverse relationship between encryption and "officer safety" I agree with the CYA theory. Can't report what you don't know about. Saves that pesky embarrassment factor when they screw up (which we know they do).

Eugene KG4AVE
 

K4FLB

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I am not happy that so many agencies are going encrypted for me personally, but these days I think it is becoming an officer safety issue. Police are being specifically targeted these days and being ambushed. I can understand more now than I did a few years ago a desire for encryption. I say for me personally, because I wish to be able to monitor police. But I am much more concerned for their safety than my desire to listen. I started listening to my dad on NCHP when I was about 12, and his brothers and my cousins on the PD and SO.
 
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PBN1979

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I am not happy that so many agencies are going encrypted for me personally, but these days I think it is becoming an officer safety issue. Police are being specifically targeted these days and being ambushed. I can understand more now than I did a few years ago a desire for encryption. I say for me personally, because I wish to be able to monitor police. But I am much more concerned for their safety than my desire to listen. I started listening to my dad on NCHP when I was about 12, and his brothers and my cousins on the PD and SO.
Personally, I think a lot of things like ambushes are based on anger and hatred of the police, largely due to how some celebrities or media outlets set up a narrative that they are violent agencies with a racial bias, looking to kill minorities. Example: Dallas. The police were ambushed by a sniper who was angry about some high-profile stories involving police shootings. It seems counter-productive to silence the radio communications at a time when the public distrusts the police more and demand MORE transparency. People wanted body cams. Now we can see body cam footage but hear less and less communications. i feel like anything that compromises transparency will make cop-haters feel validated and that it makes no sense to add body cameras but take away access to radio communications. I KNOW the police arent hiding anything because Ive listened so long. Ordinary Joe Public doesnt, and a move like this will just further their distrust
 

K4FLB

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Personally, I think a lot of things like ambushes are based on anger and hatred of the police, largely due to how some celebrities or media outlets set up a narrative that they are violent agencies with a racial bias, looking to kill minorities. Example: Dallas. The police were ambushed by a sniper who was angry about some high-profile stories involving police shootings. It seems counter-productive to silence the radio communications at a time when the public distrusts the police more and demand MORE transparency. People wanted body cams. Now we can see body cam footage but hear less and less communications. i feel like anything that compromises transparency will make cop-haters feel validated and that it makes no sense to add body cameras but take away access to radio communications. I KNOW the police arent hiding anything because Ive listened so long. Ordinary Joe Public doesnt, and a move like this will just further their distrust
Gangs are already using the scanner apps to avoid police. This is a much different world now. I like the online scanners, but they do concern me for being abused. It is a mixed issue for me.
 

IAmSixNine

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Another thing that is rarely mentioned is social media.

Twitter for example is great for outing where cops are staging or at scenes.
From what i gathered talking to a local officer, he has never caught a criminal using a scanner.
he thinks a couple may have used scanner apps but from his assessment he doesnt believe most know how to get the right agency or channel.
One thing he mentioned is many neighborhoods will have "other" ways to monitor police. Usually look outs. Then use apps like Lime, Zello and a few others to communicate back to other groups they belong to. Another thing used against them is Twitter. Unfortunately they use scanners as an excuse to go ENC but its not as much for officer safety as it is for privacy for them in case something happens the audio wont leak out against the department.
 

trainman111

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Unfortunately they use scanners as an excuse to go ENC but its not as much for officer safety as it is for privacy for them in case something happens the audio wont leak out against the department.
That’s actually not correct at all...If something truly happened, radio audio can still be retrieved by the general public under a FOIA request regardless of encryption. In the long run, it doesn’t really protect the department at all, other than during the live moments of an actual critical incident. If there’s a scandal or something controversial, the audio can still be released.
 

Hans13

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That’s actually not correct at all...If something truly happened, radio audio can still be retrieved by the general public under a FOIA request regardless of encryption. In the long run, it doesn’t really protect the department at all, other than during the live moments of an actual critical incident. If there’s a scandal or something controversial, the audio can still be released.
They can drag their heels satisfying the public records request and some do so with regularity. Also, having people hearing the original radio traffic helps insure that nothing is "forgotten" when the records request is made. Then, there is the situation that live radio traffic generates the primary interest in an event that leads to a records requests and subsequent investigation. By encrypting everything, it does indeed protect the department politically and legally. The main reason for blanket encryption is to hide from the public.
 

Eugene

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They drag their feet to get to the point where they can then erase said video/audio footage as part of "routine maintenance" Unfortunately not all departments are honest. Cases in point.....

"In Strong v. City of New York, the Appellate Division, First Department recently held that sanctions were appropriate in light of the NYPD’s deletion of audio recordings preceding a car accident allegedly initiated by an NYPD driver..... In addressing whether sanctions arising from the City’s failure to prevent the automatic erasure of radio run audio recordings after 180 days ...The City was placed on notice of plaintiffs’ claim and its own claimed affirmative defense within the 180 days after the recording was made,..........The City therefore had the obligation to take steps to prevent the automatic erasure of any audio recording from that incident, and its failure to do so constituted spoliation."

And second: "On November 2, 2016, the Professional Law Enforcement Association, a police union, requested Miami-Dade County Police airport cop Mark Allen's body-camera footage from the week of September 7 that year. But according to documents attached to the MDPD lawsuit, which was filed in county court March 16, a lieutenant working in "digital services" at MDPD, Luis Almaguer, said the department deleted the footage according to its 90-day "retention schedule" and isn't able to recover it."

So good luck with the FOIA request. Sad but unfortunately true.

Eugene KG4AVE
 

mmckenna

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I am not happy that so many agencies are going encrypted for me personally, but these days I think it is becoming an officer safety issue. Police are being specifically targeted these days and being ambushed. I can understand more now than I did a few years ago a desire for encryption. I say for me personally, because I wish to be able to monitor police. But I am much more concerned for their safety than my desire to listen. I started listening to my dad on NCHP when I was about 12, and his brothers and my cousins on the PD and SO.
"Officer Safety" is something that will get debated forever. Ultimately it's up to the agency to make sure officers are protected as much as they can. Knowingly putting officers at risk when there are ways to mitigate some of that risk creates liability issues. After all, officers are employees and have families, they deserve the same protections we do. Hobbies should not over rule that, ever.

I was at several presentations at APCO this year where encryption was discussed. Scanner listeners specifically came up. It's not so much officer safety that is the big concern with hobbyists, it's the streaming of audio, people posting information about current events on social media, news sources spreading info and pages like this one that are the concern. Specific examples were given about school shootings where information was leaked to the public and resulted in lots of parents showing up on scene while the events were still active or in the securing stage. That took resources away from the incident to do crowd control.

(I get that the parents were concerned, I have a child in middle school and I'd do the same thing)

While scanner hobbyists will hate that and contest it to no end, the issue is real.
I know hobbyists will claim that "we help law enforcement by being eyes and ears". Good point, however there are many ways that public safety agencies can enlist the publics help via communication means that hit a wider audience. "Code Blue/Blue Alerts", similar to the Amber alerts, are already possible. This will allow agencies to hit every cell phone in a defined area to alert the public about officer safety issues. They also have reverse 911 systems, social media, public information officers. All ways they can enlist a wider population than scanners ever will, and it allows the agencies to retain control over how much and when information is released.

Encryption aside, officers have other ways of communicating that doesn't involve unencrypted two way radio. Even if encryption is totally outlawed for the reason of public accountability, agencies will still transfer sensitive information via mobile terminals, FirstNet terminals, cell phone, wired phone, in person, memo, carrier pigeon, etc.

As for political reasons for encryption, I can't offer anything there other than if you suspect your department is up to no good, then you need to get out and vote and fix it.

Bottom line is: Encryption or not, hobbyists will never have immediate access to all agency communications.
 

safetypro79

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Here in SW Idaho

We have our adjacent county Canyon which LE is totally encrypted as of years ago do do gang activity in Nampa and Caldwell. FD and some very limited EMS in not encrypted.


Here in Ada county the public and the news media are use,to only a few LE channels being non encrypted and carrying routine traffic. EMS is all encrypted (due to HIPPA and sensitive patient radio info) except FD/ EMS inital dispatch.

Unlike my home city of Anchorage Alaska where all PS agencies went encrypted about two years back.

Alaska State Troopers have been encrypted for a few years. The overall crime rate in Anchorage has risen exponentially in the last 20 years prompting a safety concern. So not much left to listen too except Walmart stocking shelves....

It’s here to stay the hobby as most realize is not what it was 30 years ago........
 

mmckenna

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HIPAA does not require encryption for patient information in an emergency, however I know some agencies are using it. If all the radios are set up to decrypt correctly, then it's a good thing. But not required by HIPAA

I never really understood the reason for encrypting fire traffic. Maybe for medical (see above) or arson investigators, but dispatch/fire ground, no.

I agree, it's here to stay, one way or the other.
 
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No pertinent and identifying information should be going over an EMS/FD radio except for name and age. Passing any other form of information that can make known EXACTLY who the patient is IS a violation as any person on the TG or overhearing a radio would then gain that information creating a breach in HIPAA. Why ANY FD/EMS TG's need to be secure is unknown unless the TG is a high profile event such as the College beach weekend here at the ocean front.
 

Citywide173

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No pertinent and identifying information should be going over an EMS/FD radio except for name and age. Passing any other form of information that can make known EXACTLY who the patient is IS a violation as any person on the TG or overhearing a radio would then gain that information creating a breach in HIPAA. Why ANY FD/EMS TG's need to be secure is unknown unless the TG is a high profile event such as the College beach weekend here at the ocean front.
Even name is getting into a gray area. The HHS position on emergency radio communications and HIPAA is that the minimum necessary information to access and appropriately treat the patient is what should apply. Sometimes that is address, age, sex, chief complaint, sometimes more is required. I had HHS people presenting it in a pilot program yesterday to my recruits. Sometimes more will be necessary, but if necessary to provide adequate patient care, it is exempted. If a department is exceeding the minimum, even on an encrypted system, it is still a violation.
 

MTS2000des

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HIPAA does not require encryption for patient information in an emergency, however I know some agencies are using it. If all the radios are set up to decrypt correctly, then it's a good thing. But not required by HIPAA
HIPAA also requires that such PHI (personal health information) be discussed discreetly and only with those on a need to know basis. EMS giving stats over the radio to the ER admitting should not be giving out PHI where others can hear it, such as blaring from a consollette speaker in an ER triage area or coming out of portable radios carried by crews not involved. That's a bigger risk of failing a JCOH or VA audit than encrypting radio traffic.
 

captainmax1

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My Policy is Don't donate money to your Local Law Enforcement if they fully Encrypt. If everyone spoke with their wallets, local Governments might look at things differently. My local LEO is not encrypted so I donate money to the fund every year but would never again if they did encrypt. Scanning and Amateur Radios have been one of my hobbies for over 50 years and a great enjoyment in my life.
 
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