As police encrypt radios, attorney general urges law enforcement to help media – Palo Alto Daily Post


BY ELAINE GOODMAN
Daily postal correspondent

Almost a year after Palo Alto abruptly began encrypting police radio transmissions – meaning the public and media can’t hear what officers are doing – the California attorney general’s office said that law enforcement agencies should “take all necessary measures” to help journalists obtain the information they need. .

The comment came as the San Francisco Police Department this month rolled out procedures to protect the personal information of subjects that air over the airwaves, without going through full radio encryption. The public can still listen to dispatchers dispatching San Francisco agents to calls and hear the outcome of the call. The Post first reported SFPD’s partial encryption plans in May.

The protection of personal information, such as a person’s name and driver’s license number, was the subject of a California Department of Justice bulletin in October 2020.

Protection of personal information

The bulletin reminded law enforcement agencies to take action to protect “Personally Identifiable Information” or PII, which is a requirement for using the California law enforcement telecommunications system. . Officers use CLETS to access driver files and criminal histories.

Encryption is a way to protect personal information, according to the DOJ bulletin, or a service may establish policies that serve the purpose.

Despite this, police departments in cities like Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Los Altos flocked to encryption early last year, citing the DOJ bulletin as the reason to do so.

Palo Alto Police began fully encrypting their radio transmissions on January 5, emailing the move to the media minutes before unplugging.

The Daily Post asked the Attorney General’s office last week if it plans to update the October 2020 newsletter.

The GA press service said it had no updates to report at this time, but added the following:

“We generally encourage law enforcement, in accordance with these requirements (to protect personal information), to take whatever steps are necessary to help journalists access the information they need to do their important work,” said the press office of the GA. “It is ultimately up to each agency to determine the appropriate approach. “

CHP avoided encryption

Some law enforcement agencies have found ways to protect personal information without going into full encryption or, in the case of the California Highway Patrol, without using encryption at all.

Police in San Francisco now encrypt some transmissions, including those in which an officer checks a person’s driving record, criminal history, or license plate information, and therefore personal information is transmitted.

The encryption transition took place on December 12, police spokesman Adam Lobsinger said. The department has also moved from analog radios to digital radios, which provides better radio coverage throughout the city, Lobsinger said.

But the public and the media can hear dispatchers dispatch agents on calls and find out how calls end. Listeners must have a Project 25, Phase 2 compatible scanner in order to hear SFPD dispatch broadcasts.

For example, listeners may hear that there was a vehicle crash with injuries, a shootout or a fight, as well as the location of the incident, according to the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, or DEM, which provides dispatch services.

Dispatchers will also broadcast an acknowledgment of an agent-triggered event, such as a traffic stop, for the public to hear.

The public will also be able to hear the disposition of an incident – that is, when a situation has calmed down and no longer presents a danger to others, DEM said.

For example, dispatchers might say “Code 4 on assault, parts and sorting” or “Code 4 on knife attack, suspect left on arrival. The scene is safe for doctors. Code 4 means that no further assistance is required.

In addition, the public can see a list of dispatch system incidents through the city data portal.


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