Portland Police dispatch

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Pro94Pdx

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I usually listen to Clackamas County Law 1 (the main channel for urban area dispatch), along with fire, ambulance, and OSP for the same area. These are all coming in fine on my PSR 800. However, when I went into Portland the other day, I noticed I am only picking up the tac (chat) channels, and not the dispatch for PPB. My scanner has had all the updates from RR, but I'm not getting anything for central, east, or north dispatch at all. Have they gone encrypted? Or have they moved to another TG?

When I bought my PSR 800 about a year ago for nearly $600, I was hoping I had the latest and greatest. I know there is no scanner that will unscramble encryption. But as a side note, I wondered if anyone has any thoughts on the PSR 800 in general with regard to the fact that the RR updates will no longer be available after December 2014, since GRE is out of business. With the decline in Radio Shack business overall, I'm a little concerned as to how long Whistler will stay in the scanner business, if Radio Shack were to stop carrying their new products. Whistler is supposed to have a great new scanner (better than the PSR 800) on the market sometime by the end of the year, but I'm not sure if I should go with that, or try a Uniden instead. I want to be able to keep up to date with the best scanner, and even though I LOVE my PSR 800, there is definitely a concern if it will no longer be able to update with RR after this year. Would love to hear any feedback or suggestions.
 

Otto

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The database TGID's are what I have in my scanner, and they all work on all the dispatch channels for PPB (It's what I mainly listen to). it's just regular analog, not digital or encrypted. Maybe you need to manually enter the TGID's.
 

Pro94Pdx

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Thanks for the info. It's good to know they're not encrypted.... yet. I'll have to play around with things a bit, because I used to have no problem picking up PPB dispatch in the past. Maybe I hit the wrong button somewhere on EZ Scan while reprogramming my TGs.
 

pdx911

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Thanks for the info. It's good to know they're not encrypted.... yet. I'll have to play around with things a bit, because I used to have no problem picking up PPB dispatch in the past. Maybe I hit the wrong button somewhere on EZ Scan while reprogramming my TGs.
We have no plans to ever encrypt main dispatch nets by the way. Possibly tac channels though.
 

omlbed

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I'm was in Portland last night and again tonight and I'm hearing Dispatch TGs from PPB's Central, East and North precincts loud and clear.
 

Otto

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We have no plans to ever encrypt main dispatch nets by the way. Possibly tac channels though.
That's good to know. As far as the TAC channels possibly getting encryption, that's OK with me. Most of the time I hear them, it's just a bunch of blather from the street crimes or vice units chatting about what kind of donuts they should get.
 

Pro94Pdx

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We have no plans to ever encrypt main dispatch nets by the way. Possibly tac channels though.
Really glad to hear that. I wrote a post on exactly that subject a while back, http://forums.radioreference.com/or...st-curious-what-people-think.html#post2051027 I think a tremendous amount is lost to the community when everything goes encrypted, as in Eugene and elsewhere. Having a few isolated channels encrypted is fine, and that is very necessary and legitimate for sensitive operations. But to lock the public out of ALL of them seems overboard. As it is, I regularly hear police officers tell one another to "call me on my cell," which already provides a medium for any police work which cannot be done on the public airwaves (since no modern scanner will monitor cells, and it is illegal to do so anyway). So having a handful of them encrypted - rather than the entire system - would seem reasonable, in addition to the cell phones, for private or sensitive work, and in cases where having it available to the public would compromise what law enforcement is doing (like undercover, etc).

If encryption comes up in the future as a possibility, one possible alternative would be to consider requiring a license for scanner listeners, along with a background check to get one. Rather than locking everyone out of a wonderful hobby - and crippling the scanner industry in the process - this might make sense as a way to address the security concerns which are raised by those who favor encryption. A local or statewide law could be passed to require either a HAM license or a separate license for scanners (for those who aren't HAMs), with a small fee to cover the background check. A renewal could be done every few years so the record can be screened again, and the permit revoked for any criminal offenses. This is already done for concealed carry guns, for example, as opposed to banning all forms of personal protection, and a similar system might work for scanners, to help alleviate security concerns.

New York City requires a HAM license to listen to scanners, I believe, and that would make sense here, rather than going with total encryption for everything, if that idea ever comes up again. And if it is ever proposed in the future, these ideas should be considered as a reasonable and viable alternative. For now, I am VERY relieved to hear that it may only be the tac channels. In theory, after all, the airwaves are supposed to be public, and in a true and open governmental process - by the people, of the people, for the people - they should REMAIN open, and available for public awareness, just like public records. It not only provides accountability, it keeps to keep us aware of what is going on in our own local community as well, which is especially helpful during emergencies or natural disasters.

I have no doubt that the majority of people who listen and enjoy this hobby are good, legitimate scanner users, with no nefarious intent. But if the concern for security arises, then perhaps the idea of a license (and background check) should be considered, in lieu of encrypting everything... which blocks the legitimate hobbyists out. And, to deter others who should not be listening from doing so (like criminals trying to avoid the police), there could be steep fines and a defined legal process for punishment.

The main concern over encryption seems to have arisen from the advent of scanning apps on smart phones, in addition to national security after 9/11. That could easily be dealt with by passing legislation which prohibits broadcasting police transmissions over smart phone apps. Most members of the public are not willing to pay $500 for a scanner, and many of them become too frustrated with the complex process of programming to really listen in the first place... unless they're already into the hobby, and take the time to learn it well. That, in and of itself, keeps many with nefarious intent from listening. So removing the "ease" of the smart phone apps would likely reduce the number of non-legitimate listeners who are simply trying to avoid the police. Most of the stories I have heard in the news about petty criminals listening in on the police have specifically mentioned they were doing so on a smart phone app... likely because it was the only equipment they could figure out how to use, since the scanners tend to be complex. In many cases, it was someone who was being chased on foot and hiding somewhere, who wanted to know where the cops were looking. And even at that, we have to bear in mind that most criminals on that level seem too dumb to realize that what they're hearing on the smart phone apps is broadcast with a 3-4 minute delay... which makes it pretty useless to begin with, when you're trying to run from the law.

Still, if security is the main concern which leads agencies like Eugene to go encrypted, these are things which should be considered and discussed more thoroughly before that decision is made. There are plenty of reasonable alternatives which address those legitimate concerns, but which preserve the hobby for those who enjoy the hobby. As for national security, the federal channels are already encrypted for that very purpose - which may be reasonable - so the idea of banning ALL other listening for hobbyists at the local level seems like it goes too far. If PPB has a few tac channels which are encrypted for the times when it is needed, that seems like a fair and reasonable "happy medium" for everyone. That way, hobbyists can still listen to the dispatch... but the officers can go to an encrypted channel when it is needed, as opposed to all the time. Adding the requirement for a license (and background check) can assuage any further concerns beyond that, if concerns are still being raised.

In either case, this is the first time I've heard any confirmation that there are no plans to encrypt the main channels, and I really appreciate your adding that comment. My apologies in advance if this has already been discussed on the forums (wish I had more time to read them all), but the last thing I heard was that the latest radio upgrades "allowed for encryption," and that encryption was a distinct possibility.... likely to happen in a couple years. I've wanted to be respectful of the request "not to rant" about encryption in these forums, so I've generally kept somewhat quiet about it. But if you have any connections as an insider with BOEC, I hope you will not hesitate to bring up some of these ideas above as alternatives to encryption, should it ever be considered again. And for anyone else who is a scanner enthusiast - with or without connections to the agencies - I think it is VITALLY IMPORTANT that we make our voices heard among the decision makers (agency leaders, politicians, etc) so they can be made AWARE of how important scanning is to a transparent public process, and to general public safety as well.

If we want to keep the airwaves public, we must not shy away from speaking up and letting the decision makers know how we feel. Otherwise, if we say nothing at all, that decision will be made for us... and once that is done, it will be very difficult to overturn. Having a permit or license to scan will not do us any good if there is nothing to scan - and once encryption is done, it will likely cost far too much to "undo," even if people express concerns after it is done. We need to remember that if someone were proposing a law in Salem that we disagreed with, most of us would not hesitate to let our legislator know. This is really no different. So long as we make our voices heard in a respectful and constructive manner, and are willing to make ourselves a part of what should be a thoughtful and constructive public discourse, we have the power to influence those decisions (or at the very least, to be a part of them), before they are made. The time to act is NOT "after the fact," because by then, it is too late.

Again, I'm ecstatic to hear that we're not going encrypted on the dispatch. But I would still encourage everyone to consider writing to or calling their elected representatives even now, so that when or if the issue comes up again, they are at least already AWARE that some people oppose it. After all, if they don't hear anything at all, they will quite reasonably assume that no one is opposed to encryption, and they will make their decisions with that in mind. If no one voices their opinions, those opinions will never be heard. The public's voice is vitally important when considering any changes to the public airwaves. Otherwise, we have no right to complain when we don't agree with the decision, after it is done.
 

pdx911

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But if you have any connections as an insider with BOEC, I hope you will not hesitate to bring up some of these ideas above as alternatives to encryption, should it ever be considered again.
I do, I work there .. :)

But those are all great points, and I think are the main reasons our techs have said we won't be going encrypted on the main nets. I also believe they monitor this forum, so they'll see how passionate the community is about being able to listen.
 

Pro94Pdx

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I do, I work there .. :)

I figured you did, given your user name of Pdx911. Glad to hear there are people who enjoy scanning who are working within the agencies themselves, as we desperately need "insiders" who can also advocate for the hobby. Thank you for your comments, and for being a part of this forum.

I was a student in the 911 dispatch program at PCC and put in around 40 hours of ride-alongs with police... and another 40 or so with sit-alongs in multiple PSAPs, including BOEC, CCOM (Clackamas, not Columbia... yet), OSP, LOCOM, and even Sacramento. It's truly fascinating work, and the people who take the calls (and respond to them in the field) are truly astounding, top-notch folks. I first began scanning back in 2005, when I was a TriMet LIFT driver, and I wanted to learn how to do my job better by monitoring the dispatch traffic for our drivers.... by seeing how others were working through the challenges they encounter on the road, or in dealing with various passengers. At the time - and I believe this is still the case - the radios in the buses were not set up for monitoring. You could only hear the dispatcher when dispatcher specifically opened a channel to your bus to contact you. It was only then that you could pick up the handset (which looked like an old telephone), and hear them. Otherwise, everything else going on with other drivers, etc, was in the dark... unless you had a scanner.

Before I had the scanner, my manager at the time had called me back to his office and gently advised me (as a new hire) that I was contacting dispatch too often... and that they had "other drivers who needed help too," so they couldn't spent all their time with me. :) But since he couldn't listen to the radio traffic either - and was basing that on what the dispatchers had told him over the phone (asking me to contact them less), he was unable to provide any specific feedback or examples as to when I "should or shouldn't" contact dispatch. He hadn't been listening, so he couldn't provide any advice on my specific case, other than to nicely say, "Don't do it so often."

He was a very nice man, and I couldn't fault him for that. He was a great person work with. However, monitoring the airwaves was not part of his job as an administrator. Not to mention, the entire LIFT service is contracted out (no one works for TriMet directly), so he was just a manager at a bus company.... and had never had much to do with dispatch. But I wanted to learn more for myself - so that I could be a better employee/driver - by listening in on what other drivers were doing. Some of us "learn by observation," so I knew that would be very helpful. And that's when I got my first little Pro94 at Radio Shack.... and from then on, it was "love at first sight" for scanning. (Or "love at first listen, perhaps? LOL)

My point is this, however: Scanners can be an excellent learning tool for anyone who is interested in finding a job in public safety, or any other field where radios are involved. When I took classes in 911 dispatch, I listened all the time. And... I still do. If you want to learn to be a good dispatcher, one of the best ways to do it is to LISTEN to other dispatchers, especially with the agency you want to work for. Training for dispatchers at BOEC is rigorous and difficult. I haven't checked into it in a while, but a few years back, the training was at least 6 months long, with a probationary period of 2 years. During the training period, you had to score 90 percent or higher on all your tests.... and once you hit even 89 percent on 3 of them, you were automatically out. Public safety call taking and dispatching requires a high degree of accuracy, quick thinking, a calm demeanor under stress, and an exceptional level of professionalism, across the board. Those who SURVIVE the training are top notch. They cannot accept anything less than perfection in their staff, because lives are on the line.

I've since decided to go in other directions with my life, but the experiences I had on ride-alongs and sit-alongs were truly astounding, and they are times I will never forget. These people hold the very lives of their callers in their hands, and the outcome is critical in these kinds of emergencies. They can't afford to make mistakes. And fortunately, they rarely do.

It's yet another reason NOT to go fully encrypted. Yes, I know some agencies will let a trainee take home a radio for a couple days to listen in, so they can learn. But a couple of days is nothing compared to being able to listen all the time. You can't learn a second language by doing to Berlin for a couple days. You have to KEEP actively listening, actively learning, and paying attention. The caliber of applicants will rise, as will their success rates, by keeping these public airwaves open. I hope you'll pass that along to the agency heads, so they can be aware. I am very glad to hear that some of them monitor these forums. Going to full encryption would be a loss not only to the hobby itself, but to the community as a whole.... and to public safety. Consider this as well: there are off duty officers who also listen to scanners. When a cop was shot in Lincoln City a few years back, there were off duty officers who were able to respond BECAUSE they were able to listen at home for emergencies. One of them went out to set down a spike strip for the assailant, who was speeding away on Hwy 101.

Closer to home, there are Clackamas County officers who listen to OSP in their patrol cars with a scanner. OSP is on a totally different radio system, so they can't listen in on their standard equipment. As you know, OSP is on a convention frequency, and CCOM is on the Clackamas/Washington/Newberg 800Mhz trunk, so they have to have a scanner to listen. I overheard a Clackamas deputy come on the air to tell dispatch he was heading to a certain location to help an OSP trooper nearby.... a trooper he had heard on his scanner. And that is also very critical to public safety. When a trooper is in danger, seconds count. He cannot wait for OSP in Salem to contact CCOM by phone, and then have a Code 3 response dispatched to units who are 5 minutes away.... especially if he needs help NOW.

Granted, the computers are lightening fast, and the time delay amounts to a minute or two or less. And calls from OSP to CCOM and visa versa are routinely handled this way. But what if we were to encrypt OSP and the local officers with scanners couldn't listen in? What if the off duty officers in Lincoln County couldn't hear one of their fellow officers calling in for help after he's been shot? There are only so many "on duty" officers in the area at the time... and they may be 5 minutes or more away. Having the ability to monitor live radio traffic at home (or in one's vehicle) is a critical part of public safety and effective communication, both for the public, and for the officers.

To take another example, what about the 36 Pit Fire burning 3500 acres up near Estacada right now? When the fire lines are changing quickly and winds are high, the danger to the public is immediate, and it can can change from "bad" to "worse" in a split second. Right now, it sounds like evacuations are being done door to door by deputies, who are letting home owners know if they are in Zone 2 (prepare to evac) or Zone 3 (leave now). Of course, there are telephones for that purpose too. But what if the phone lines have been knocked out by fire? What if the deputy can't reach certain home owners because of a landslide or downed tree, or because the flames are too intense in that area? All of those people could have been monitoring their scanners so they would KNOW to leave now, before the deputies even arrive. But if we go encrypted, they cannot.

Granted, scanning is a niche hobby, and not every person living up by the fire has a scanner. But if even one person does, that person can be "on the ground right now," knocking on his neighbors doors, letting them know. Keep the public airwaves open is truly a vital part of safety for everyone. And only live monitoring without encryption can make that possible.

Please pass this and my other thoughts above on to your supervisors. You are right... there are many in the scanning community who are passionate about this hobby. And with good reason. We all live in this world together, and it is vital that we are able to look out for one another.
 

SCPD

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The idea of "background checks" for scanner listeners to be able to monitor encrypted comms is probably the dumbest thing I have ever heard. If an agency encrypts, there is nothing we can do, period. Sure send in letters, make calls, have the media do stories but the bottom line is that they can encrypt all they want. There is no "right" for the public to monitor public safety communications clear or encrypted.

Encryption is here and will continue to expand, like it or not.
 

Otto

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The idea of "background checks" for scanner listeners to be able to monitor encrypted comms is probably the dumbest thing I have ever heard. If an agency encrypts, there is nothing we can do, period. Sure send in letters, make calls, have the media do stories but the bottom line is that they can encrypt all they want. There is no "right" for the public to monitor public safety communications clear or encrypted.

Encryption is here and will continue to expand, like it or not.
I agree, but why did you quote my "oversharing" post aimed at pro94pdx?
 

pdx911

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That's good to know. As far as the TAC channels possibly getting encryption, that's OK with me. Most of the time I hear them, it's just a bunch of blather from the street crimes or vice units chatting about what kind of donuts they should get.
Haha yea. Each dispatcher actively monitors the main tac channels for their area too. Ie: north dispatcher also listens to north tac 1 and tac 2. It can be pretty dang mind numbing sometimes listening to the general blah blah. But it's for good reason as sometimes they forget to click back over before doing something important.
 
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Glad to hear we won't likely be getting full-blown encryption. Of course, things are always subject to change, but at least it's starting off on the right foot. Kudos to BOEC for seeing the bigger picture.
 
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