More police departments are seeking to shield their live radio communications, now easily accessible via smartphone apps. Police say the effort will keep officers safe and bad guys from finding out what they’re doing.
John Messner gives live updates he gets from the police scanner on police chases and burglaries on his Knoxville, Tn., Crime Facebook group, which has 94,000 members in a city of 186,000. Social media groups like Knoxville Crime are one reason that Knoxville police officials say they will begin encrypting police radio communications in August, making it impossible for Messner or anyone else in the public to listen in live, the Wall Street Journal reports. The move comes as more police departments are seeking to shield their live radio communications, now easily accessible via smartphone apps. Police say the effort will keep officers safe and bad guys from finding out what they’re doing. “When you’re putting out information that only a suspect and a victim and an officer knows, then all of the sudden you have someone put that on social media, that takes your advantage away,” said Darrell DeBusk, a Knoxville police spokesman.
This year, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department encrypted its radio traffic, alleging that bad guys “monitor police radio frequencies in order to better facilitate their crimes and gather intelligence about the whereabouts of police officers.” Pueblo, Co., police blocked their scanner traffic recently, citing suspects using scanner apps to avoid officers. Local media still has access to the live radio transmissions in Las Vegas. In Knoxville, the radio traffic will be posted after a one-hour delay. Scanner enthusiasts are unhappy. Many scanner buffs are police supporters who want to help solve crimes, making the decision to go dark a difficult one, police say. “It’s a tough choice because many of the pro-police people out in the community who support their local police get that way because they listen to their police on these scanners or phone apps,” said Richard Myers of the Major Cities Chiefs Association.