NYPD considers encrypting police radio transmissions

New York City's police radio channels, which have been accessible to the press and the public for over 90 years, may soon become inaccessible outside the NYPD. 

Police scanners have historically served as crucial sources of real-time information for journalists and members of the community, alerting people about breaking news incidents.

For instance, in 2017 when Sayfullo Saipov drove a rented U-Haul onto the West Side bike path, police scanner chatter provided vital information to avoid affected areas until the situation was under control.

Similarly, just this week, it was police scanner chatter that told the media and the community about the crane collapse in Hell's Kitchen, allowing them to stay informed and take necessary precautions.


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However, the NYPD is now considering encrypting these communication channels, making them off-limits to anyone outside the department. 

The NYPD says it is an issue of officer and public safety. The department is undergoing a 40-year upgrade, which they claim, provides clearer communication. But when asked how the media would gain access to it, they would only say, they're looking into it.

"We've been looking at other cities and looking at other options to enable media access, consistent with other tech supports and what other cities have done,"

Todd Maisel, the Government Relations Chairman of the New York Press Photographers Association, has expressed doubts about the NYPD's intentions to provide access. 

"I don't believe for one minute that the police department had any intention of telling you what was going to happen," Maisel said. "They had no intention of having a plan to give access at all.

It remains unclear if other city agencies, such as the FDNY, are planning to follow suit with encryption.