Debate on safety vs. transparency with NYPD radio broadcasts

Darla Miles Image
Saturday, August 5, 2023
Debate on safety vs. transparency with NYPD radio broadcasts
Should police radio broadcasts be encrypted or should they stay public? There's a debate between the NYPD and local officials. Darla Miles has more.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Should police radio broadcasts be encrypted or should they stay public? There's a debate between the NYPD, New York City Council, and New York City Mayor Eric Adams on this matter.

"Collapse of part of that crane coming down on 10th Avenue! Notify the PD, no vehicles northbound on 10th Avenue, OK!" a broadcast across police radios said.

As a 45-story crane caught fire and tumbled down onto 10th Avenue last Wednesday, the frenzy was broadcast on police radios.

"We have an injured member. Four first, 41st Street. We need EMS, northwest. Injured member struck by debris of the crane," the radio broadcast.

People find it thrilling. That's why Broadcastify and Citizen App are so successful. The NYPD has started to restrict public access.

"These frequencies are used by journalists to respond to spot news. It's important that New Yorkers are kept informed, to ensure safety, through that medium," said Adrienne E. Adams, NYC Council Speaker.

Two weeks ago, six NYPD precincts in Brooklyn North went silent without warning.

"We're going to do our job as legislators to hold oversight hearings to get some answers on what all of this means and try to find out if there is a plan. And if so, it needs to be shared," Council Speaker Adams said.

"We have a history of our radios being used against us," said Ruben Beltran, NYPD Chief Technology Officer.

"Manhattan South Captain? Manhattan South Captain on the air," a radio broadcast said, "South Captain, remember when you put me in jail? I'm out now and I'm coming to put a bullet in your head."

The NYPD says frequency hijacking has become a massive public safety risk, not to mention the existing technology is 40 years old.

"Other cities have gone encrypted and have dealt with these issues also. That is what we are exploring, to see what is the best option to strike that balance between keeping police officers safe, keeping the community safe, and making sure there is appropriate media access and information for transparency," Beltran said.

The NYCLU Tweeted, "Cannot become yet another transparency dodge" and is keeping a close eye on the situation.

"Bad guys are looking at this. They can see when we're responding to a crime. They know when it's reported," Mayor Eric Adams said. "We have to make sure that we find that proper balance and that's what we're going to do."

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