Radio silence | January 29, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 29, 2021

Radio silence

As police encryption of dispatch transmissions grow, questions remain about the public right to information — and alternatives that would not exclude news organizations

by Sue Dremann

Police departments throughout the Midpeninsula are following in the footsteps of the Palo Alto Police Department, which on Jan. 5 abruptly announced it would immediately encrypt its dispatch radio communications — a longtime source of information for residents and the news media — to protect certain private information from being transmitted publicly.

This story contains 1975 words.

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Posted by Context matters.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2021 at 12:06 pm

Context matters. is a registered user.

Full encryption of PAPD radio dispatch is a mistake. The public, via our government, arms officers and sends them out to enforce the law, so WE are responsible to hold them accountable via our government for their behavior. I don't know how we do that if the press is prevented from accessing radio dispatch info. Transparency is key in any government agency or department--moreso, I think, with police.

The majority of Palo Alto police officers I have met are highly professional, good people --dedicated to serving the public with honor and compassion. However, in every large organization there are some people with characteristics that may not be obvious to their supervisors until a charged public interaction reveals character weakness --impulsivity, racism, dishonesty, willingness to intimidate or bully. While the department may do their best to weed these people out, they may not always be successful. We know police have failed to do this in other communities. Some in our community has argued that they have not been successful here.

Full transparency is important. I get that that the department wants to protect private info, but the article makes clear there are other ways to do that. I think transparency is critical to protect the public from police abuse of power. It is worth spending money to provide that protection.

That said, I fully appreciate PAPD's service. I have had the good luck to work with members of the department, who have my complete respect. Nonetheless, we have an obligation, as a community, to make sure that any bad eggs (that exist in every organization) do not undermine the good work that the department does for our community. I oppose radio dispatch encryption.

Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2021 at 3:03 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Encryption is necessary because BAD GUYS listen to police scanners all the time!

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 30, 2021 at 10:18 am

Online Name is a registered user.

I'm curious why recently at around midnight there was a police car with all its lights flashing at the intersection in front of my house. There were more vehicles with THEIR lights flashing down at least one block from the intersection. (You could see other neighbors' lights come on as they too watched the late-night light show.)

They were there for about an hour. There's nothing in the police blotter. There was no noise like from the usual car crash.

I thought it might have been a medical emergency but the vehicles that left were either police cars or police SUVs. Plus why block off a street for a midnight medical emergency?

If there was a major crime in the neighborhood warranting 6 police vehicles, it would seem we have a right to know.

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2021 at 6:46 pm

Jeremy Erman is a registered user.

How did they transmit private information before switching to encryption this month?

The idea that the public and media can't listen to police scanners is disturbing.

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