Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jacksonville, Florida Goes Full Time Encryption

JFRD To Keep Scanner Info Secret, Too

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Also Disallowing Media, Public Access To Scanners

The trend of encrypting radio traffic on a full time basis is catching on in Florida.  Jacksonville has decided that neither the public nor the media has any expectation of listening in to their radio traffic and their reasons make no sense at all. The Sheriff's Office has first stated cost and then security concerns, unable to keep a straight story. 
The bottom line is that keeping the public from hearing everyday communications is an act of communism, and fosters distrust between the city's Public Safety community and the citizens they serve. Encryption is usually reserved for sensitive operations that could be otherwise jeopardized without it. Full time encryption of all communications is a waste of money, and serves no real useful purpose other than to snub the public who are oftentimes law abiding and serve as the extra eyes and ears of their local, county, and state Public Safety Departments. 

Media outlets make a good argument for public reception of Public Safety Radio traffic in that it allows motorists and other community members to plan alternate routes around emergency scenes and serves to keep the media able to inform the community of safety hazards. When public Safety Departments get to chose how and when to notify the public of important events, the community usually only gets a sanitized version of events that is oftentimes found to be full of disinformation and notification usually only comes many hours or weeks AFTERWARDS. 

Using the argument of "security and privacy" or the now cliche' "9/11" excuse does not an actual homeland security issue make. In the absence of an actual trend of criminal use of Public Safety radio communications or use of such to facilitate criminal acts, and in the absence of a trend of people using communications  to interfere with Public Safety duties / emergency scenes, full time encryption is just an indicator of a Department that has something to hide. This is straight fact, not opinion.
Shame on you Jacksonville!  


Anonymous said...

I'm curious Dan, does your exposure of these issues ever cause any backlash from the man? Thanks for being there, Tom AB9NZ

Anonymous said...

In response to the rant about the encryption of JFRD: you will find that many agencies today across the country are implementing, or considering, encryption of all traffic on their networks. There are a number of reasons for this action, not all of which are directly related to keeping the public and media out of the loop. Police operations are sensitive, including simple operations such as traffic stops. Let us assume someone is stopped and is not a criminal - simply a commuter on the way home. This person's name, address, license number, possibly social security number and other information may be broadcast. Personally, I would prefer that my information not be made public and I'm sure most citizens would agree.
You mentioned the law-abiding public being the eyes and ears of the department, and this is a true statement. However, they do not need to hear what operations are currently underway in order to report crime. They simply need a cell phone.
Throughout the history of receivers there have always been those who choose to 'chase calls' and show up at crime scenes or try to locate criminals on their own. This action can cost the listeners their very lives, endanger police officers and possible lead to a conviction being overturned, or worse.
As far as reporting alternate routes and traffic, there are several systems in place to get that information. A police scanner is not needed. Turn on the car radio.
Regarding the media using the police scanners, many departments are providing links to secure connections so that the local media can monitor the secure traffic. I do not know if Jacksonville has this sort of system in place, but I have to believe they are working with the media to keep them in the loop. I would encourage you to make a phone call to your local TV/radio stations to see if this is true.
Overall, the encrypted communications is a good thing. Simply being able to buy a receiver or scanner does not entitle one to be able to hear confidential information. I am quite sure that your company/employer would not want the general public listening to their phone calls. The monitoring of cell phone calls has been illegal for a long time, so why should sensitive police communications be any different?
Radio Guy