(StraightNews.org) – The New York Police Department (NYPD) is to spend $390 million on a new radio encryption system that will prevent members of the public and press from listening to police dispatch calls. Police radio channels have been publicly accessible since 1932, but NYPD Chief of Information Technology Ruben Beltran said “bad actors” used this against them.
Among the examples he provided, Beltran said criminals used freely available police radio transmissions to estimate officers’ locations, allowing them to flee. He also controversially added that “ambulance chaser” attorneys listen to police conversations to make money through knowledge of medical emergencies.
Critics say ending the ability for the public and press to listen to law enforcement erodes a method of police accountability. New York City Councilmember Vickie Paladino said the move amounts to a “blackout of the press,” while fellow Councilmember Robert Holden said barring the public from police radio is “a crime in itself.”
New York joins cities in California which have already encrypted their police radio transmissions. In the Golden State, law enforcement agencies hid their communications after the California Department of Justice mandated the protection of victims’ identities.
In Chicago, a coalition of news organizations, including the Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, got together to campaign against similar plans last year. In this instance, transmissions would be publicly available 30 minutes after the original communication. Representatives of the newspapers insisted that listening to real-time police communications is vital to their journalism and was also needed to help “the public avoid dangerous situations.”
Attorney Steven Mandell, who represented the media outlets, said officials, then under the authority of former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, would not discuss the newspapers’ concerns. “Our own goal is to sit down and have a good give-and-take. It’s very disheartening when nobody will even talk to you.”
When asked if New York would consider a 30-minute delay similar to that in Chicago, Ruben Beltran asked reporters to submit Freedom of Information requests.
Copyright 2023, StraightNews.org