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Senate bill to limit police encryption scores another victory

Sen. Josh Becker's proposal to require police departments to open up radio communication clears Appropriations Committee

Senate Bill 1000, which would require law enforcement agencies throughout California to find alternatives to encrypting their radio communications, received a 5-2 vote from the Senate Appropriation Committee on May 19, 2022. Embarcadero Media file photo.

State Sen. Josh Becker's proposal to require police departments to find alternatives to radio encryption took another major step forward Thursday when the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to advance the bill.

The committee's 5-2 vote means that Senate Bill 1000 will now advance for a full vote by the state Senate. The bill would still need to clear the state Assembly and get the governor’s signature before it becomes law.

State Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, speaks to media about school reopenings at Barron Park Elementary in Palo Alto on March 2, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Becker's bill addresses a recent trend by police departments throughout California, including in Palo Alto, to encrypt their radio communications, a practice that removed the historic ability of journalists and members of the general public to monitor police activities through a police scanner.

SB 1000 would require agencies to come up with policies that would open up communications while ensuring that personal identifiable information such as Social Security numbers and criminal records remains protected. Some agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, already have such policies in place.

Though Palo Alto moved to encrypt police radio communication in January 2021, the City Council has since come out in support of the Becker bill. The legislation has also been endorsed by the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the California Broadcasters Association.

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According to staff from the Appropriations Committee, about 120 law enforcement agencies in California have moved to fully encrypt radio communications in response to a memo that the state Department of Justice issued in 2020. The DOJ memo required agencies to protect personal identifiable information by either switching to encryption or adopting a "hybrid" approach that would transmit the information through secure channels while keeping most other radio communication on a non-encrypted channel.

While Becker's bill had initially set a Jan. 1, 2023 deadline for establishing the new policy and reopening radio communication, SB 1000 has since been amended to give them an extra year. The bill that advanced out of committee on Thursday has a Jan. 1, 2024 deadline for compliance.

SB 1000 was one of dozens of bills to make it out of the Appropriations Committee on Thursday. Committee Chair Anthony Portantino joined Sens. Steven Bradford, Sydney Kamlager, John Laird and Bob Wieckowski to advance the bill. Sens. Patricia Bates and Brian Jones voted against it.

Becker, who saw 15 of his bills advance out of the committee, issued a statement Thursday thanking Portantino and other committee members for their support.

"I look forward to bringing my bills before all my Senate colleagues for a vote next week," Becker said.

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Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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Senate bill to limit police encryption scores another victory

Sen. Josh Becker's proposal to require police departments to open up radio communication clears Appropriations Committee

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, May 20, 2022, 10:57 am
Updated: Sun, May 22, 2022, 11:03 pm

State Sen. Josh Becker's proposal to require police departments to find alternatives to radio encryption took another major step forward Thursday when the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to advance the bill.

The committee's 5-2 vote means that Senate Bill 1000 will now advance for a full vote by the state Senate. The bill would still need to clear the state Assembly and get the governor’s signature before it becomes law.

Becker's bill addresses a recent trend by police departments throughout California, including in Palo Alto, to encrypt their radio communications, a practice that removed the historic ability of journalists and members of the general public to monitor police activities through a police scanner.

SB 1000 would require agencies to come up with policies that would open up communications while ensuring that personal identifiable information such as Social Security numbers and criminal records remains protected. Some agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, already have such policies in place.

Though Palo Alto moved to encrypt police radio communication in January 2021, the City Council has since come out in support of the Becker bill. The legislation has also been endorsed by the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the California Broadcasters Association.

According to staff from the Appropriations Committee, about 120 law enforcement agencies in California have moved to fully encrypt radio communications in response to a memo that the state Department of Justice issued in 2020. The DOJ memo required agencies to protect personal identifiable information by either switching to encryption or adopting a "hybrid" approach that would transmit the information through secure channels while keeping most other radio communication on a non-encrypted channel.

While Becker's bill had initially set a Jan. 1, 2023 deadline for establishing the new policy and reopening radio communication, SB 1000 has since been amended to give them an extra year. The bill that advanced out of committee on Thursday has a Jan. 1, 2024 deadline for compliance.

SB 1000 was one of dozens of bills to make it out of the Appropriations Committee on Thursday. Committee Chair Anthony Portantino joined Sens. Steven Bradford, Sydney Kamlager, John Laird and Bob Wieckowski to advance the bill. Sens. Patricia Bates and Brian Jones voted against it.

Becker, who saw 15 of his bills advance out of the committee, issued a statement Thursday thanking Portantino and other committee members for their support.

"I look forward to bringing my bills before all my Senate colleagues for a vote next week," Becker said.

Comments

felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2022 at 10:14 pm
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 20, 2022 at 10:14 pm

Very good news.
Thank you Sen Becker for this Bill.
Assemblyman Burman - this deserves your YES vote.


Ryan Kilpatrick
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 21, 2022 at 12:31 pm
Ryan Kilpatrick, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on May 21, 2022 at 12:31 pm

The police union & its lobbying efforts will challenge this proposed measure.

"While Becker's bill had initially set a Jan. 1, 2023 deadline for establishing the new policy and reopening radio communication, SB 1000 has since been amended to give them an extra year. The bill that advanced out of committee on Thursday has a Jan. 1, 2024 deadline for compliance.'

This extended deadline is merely a compromised delay tactic on the part of Republican lawmakers.


Burke Longley
Registered user
Los Altos
on May 22, 2022 at 1:19 pm
Burke Longley, Los Altos
Registered user
on May 22, 2022 at 1:19 pm

OK. So two more years of police communication encryption pending another legislative review two years further down the road with no assurances of repeal.

Some call this progress.


Erica Decker
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 23, 2022 at 9:05 am
Erica Decker, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 9:05 am

Some people enjoy listening to police scanners as a pastime and they should not be deprived of such a simple pleasure.

The PAPD always has the option to use a private and separate channel for sensitive radio communications.


Chase Willingham
Registered user
Menlo Park
on May 23, 2022 at 10:13 am
Chase Willingham, Menlo Park
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 10:13 am

Total transparency implies that there is nothing to hide.

Encryption implies otherwise.


Sharon Johnson
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 23, 2022 at 3:01 pm
Sharon Johnson, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 3:01 pm

A volunteer 'ride along' corps comprised of concerned Palo Alto residents could provide embedded witnesses to police actions and the the encryption issue would no longer be a matter of debate.


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