We would like to address this possibility. First off, we have not seen a media release on encrypting their scanner feed from Spokane Police Department, but that does not surprise us since the flow of Media Releases has drastically declined in the past year. For a Department to claim transparency they have often been difficult to gain information from. What used to be Media Releases and Updates weekly, are now a rare Tweet on Major incidents or a Media Release saying the Crime is Down.
With the current system as it is, and the flow of information to the public from the Police, it should be very concerning IF they do decide to encrypt their scanner traffic. This is clearly not being done to protect an Officer’s life during a call. Police already have tactical channels they use, and those ARE and SHOULD be restricted. We agree, there is no public reason to hear tactical information. But when a subject flees on foot and runs into a populated area, it sure is beneficial for the public to be made aware of the situation in real time. Beneficial for the public and proven for Law Enforcement. When the public is made aware of a situation, the public has time and time again, proven to assist law enforcement and often due to live public tips, the situation is resolved.
For a Police Department to say they do not want the public to hear their normal scanner traffic is absurd. I can count and show many incidents where Spokane News played a crucial role in Live information relaying in which the Public assisted law enforcement in the capture of a fleeing subject. We have seen that local Sheriff’s in our area are very opposed to encrypting scanner traffic so why would SPD feel they need to hide their common traffic? Remember we are not talking about tactical traffic, we are talking about general updates. A suspect fleeing into a neighborhood, maybe armed and dangerous, SPD’s position is to not inform the public?
As I write this, a commercial robbery was just reported and being Spokane News we already have the suspect vehicle description posted and general information that was relayed via the scanner. We do this to inform the public in the area what is going on, and to possibly have them assist by paying attention to what is going on around them. I can’t even count how many times Page Members from Spokane News gave updates to a Police Chase after the suspect got away, which lead Police to go to that area and locate suspect.
We have no idea if SPD will actually try and encrypt all their scanner traffic, what we do know is, in doing so they will in our view need to do the following:
1. Hire someone to Tweet, Post and Release information in a Live manner to inform the public of what is going on around them. Yes, we are saying they need to now become a Media outlet and inform the Public. Hmm, this might not work, as now you are controlling the flow of information….oh I see! That sounds like the goal you are going for.
2. If option 1 doesn’t work, now you have to Hire someone to let the Public and Media know what is going on and this would need to be Live. The current SPD system is pretty much set up to release information during 9-5 daily Monday to Friday. If it is serious (not sure who determines what is serious) information may be released via Twitter (yes, you must be a Twitter follower to get updates from your Police) and as Media we wait for an update, which occasionally comes when the situation is over or days later.
3. Now we are at option 3. This is simple and our recommendation: Be Transparent. Be open to the Public and release information Live. Keep the scanner traffic open and live. You already have tactical channels you use when on scene for serious situations, you already have a data system where you send the calls to the Officers screens, you already pay for cell phones for the Officers to use to communicate. What would the reason be to encrypt scanner traffic? If all the local Sheriff’s are opposed, and Chief Straub has “no comment” this can’t be good.
For those who think this would “end” Spokane News if SPD encrypted their system, think about this. All Media uses scanner traffic to stay updated on what is going on. The Police do not call Media outlets to advise us of an incident (well typically but we can show this does happen to a certain Media outlet that is close to SPD). As Media we have sources, and the Public who advises us to incidents going on, but the main source for Live News is the scanner feed. If people think this only hampers Spokane News they are wrong.
Just remember, IF SPD states they are going to encrypt their feed, it is only SPD doing it. If that time comes, we will deal with it then. Until then, it is just speculation.
Thanks, Jay with Spokane News