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Public safety radio encryption discussion

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I know this may not be of interest to some of you, but for others it may be very interesting.

Around the world, more and more public safety agencies are starting to use encryption on their communications systems.

What is ‘encrypted’ police communication?

Police can encrypt their radio communication so their conversations cannot be monitored by outsiders.

This affects citizens directly & indirectly including those that use police scanner radios to monitor broadcasts including the media, amateur radio hobbyists, citizens, & anyone who uses a scanner to hear what’s going on in their area in real time.

Encryption of public airwaves by the government is a highly debated issued in the US & most states have some form of encryption. What’s encrypted varies from state to state (& sometimes county to county) all over the US as each state makes it’s own laws regarding encryption.

Different types of encryption are out there. For instance, the Ontario Provincial Police employs tactical encryption. What this means is that not all communications are encrypted. Channels such as: Surviellance, as well as intelligence, are all encrypted. General patrol channels are not encrypted at all.

Then you have areas like the Toronto Police service, where ALL TRAFFIC is encrypted.

There are sometimes heated debates both for and against encryption.

Reasons people are against encryption can be:

› 1st Amendment

› Government transparency

› Citizens & media oversight

› To allow citizens & off-duty public safety personnel to respond to emergencies

› Backup & neighboring police officers receive delayed information

› Inhibits the media’s ability to accurately report news in real time & inform citizens

Common reasons FOR encryption:

› Safety of law enforcement

› Criminals monitor communication to avoid police.

I personally am on both sides. As a hobbiest, I listen to the Ontario Provincial Police on my scanner a lot. I just find it interesting. I am not a criminal, nor am I a first responder. I can also say that being able to listen to the OPP more than likely saved my life on at least one occasion. I was on a road trip with my mother, and the weather was really bad. We stopped at a coffee shop for what we thought was just a washroom break. I had been listening to my scanner, and the OPP transmitted "Highway 23 is being shut down from Highway 80 to Elginfield due to whiteout conditions". Highway 23 is the main road my mom and I take to get back home. If it wasn't for the scanner, we could have gone back out on the road with no way of knowing how bad the conditions had have been, and wound up in a ditch.

I understand the arguments for officer safety, especially with the mass shooting events as of late. However, having fully encrpyted systems is counter productive. When listening, it can help give the public the knowledge of places to avoid due to weather, ongoing situations, and other incidents. What the OPP have is the best of both worlds. They have the channels they can move to if there is legitimate concern for operational security or officer safety, but the general patrol communications are open.

What are your thoughts about this? I know this can be a controversial topic (although what isn't nowdays), but it is an important discussion to have

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