The NYPD's new system is encrypted, meaning the only people who will be able to listen in are people with police radios.
NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City Council is holding a hearing Monday on the NYPD's planned upgrade to its decades-old radio system.
No one disputes the need for an upgrade.
What makes this controversial, though, is that that new system is encrypted, meaning the only people who will be able to listen in are people with police radios.
The news media routinely monitor police radio transmissions to cover breaking news.
Without the ability to listen in on police calls, journalists will lose the real-time window to get to these events.
NYPD officials insist encryption will protect first responders from pranksters who make bogus transmissions or attempt to jam the frequencies so no one can transmit.
But critics say the department can find a way to protect its communications while preserving access for the media.
NY State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) is introducing a bill in Albany to keep frequencies open to the press statewide.
"This has been a practice that's been in place for decades, where the public, and the media especially, have access to police radio chatter so that they can keep tabs on what law enforcement is doing," Gianaris told Eyewitness News. "That creates accountability, transparency. It's the type of checks and balances that we need in our system. And to cut that off now and allow the police to operate in secret is a very dangerous thing to do."
"There are ways to protect against the things police are worried about," he continued, "while still maintaining access to this information."
Gianaris said he plans to introduce his bill by March of next year.
The NYPD plans to have its radio system upgrade completed by the end of 2024.