Statement on Police Radio Encryption

In regards to the encryption of all police radio channels the concerns expressed by Law Enforcement are valid and understandable.  It is well documented that suspects, from time to time, monitor police radio traffic, often through internet based apps, during the commission of their crime and the ensuing escape.  To date, the Omaha Police Department has been able to combat this issue through adapting changes in policy to incorporate the limited use of encrypted specialty radio channels and departmental cell phones.  These changes allow the department to limit the amount and the nature of the information that can potentially be broadcast publicly on the unencrypted primary precinct channels.  For example, during incidents such as foot pursuits the initial chase and response takes place on unencrypted primary precinct channels.  Once additional officers arrive in the area and the incident turns more tactical in nature then the operation switches to an encrypted precinct channel.  To broadcast any channel that is used for activities other than routine dispatch would be in violation of the Terms of Service for Feed Providers.  Because of the dynamic nature of some incidents police may not have the ability to utilize encrypted channels and are forced to use unencrypted primary dispatch channels.  This is extremely rare but not unheard of.  In these incidents there is an unspoken agreement of sorts that all information that is tactical or sensitive in nature will be delayed or withheld until the incident is resolved.  This is common amongst most news media organizations.  Additionally, if a tactical incident is occurring on unencrypted primary dispatch channels that channel can be removed from our broadcast to internet based apps if we hear it or are notified of said incident.

The complete encryption of all police radio channels, including primary dispatch channels, would greatly compromise the public’s ability to obtain potentially lifesaving information.  It would also greatly hinder the ability of news media organizations to report accurately and in a timely manner.  Lastly, the consequences of full encryption on transparency, public trust, and oversight would be catastrophic.

With that said, it would be inappropriate for us to comment specifically on the actions of agencies in which we do not actively monitor.

-Mean Streets Omaha Team

Comments are closed