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As Palo Alto police switch to encrypted radio, newsroom scanners go silent

Original post made on Jan 6, 2021

In a sudden move that will severely limit the ability of journalists and citizen watchdogs to cover breaking news, the Palo Alto Police Department encrypted all of its police radio communications Tuesday afternoon.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 6, 2021, 9:25 AM

Comments (17)

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Jan 6, 2021 at 11:08 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


23 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 6, 2021 at 11:21 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The City of San Jose is trying to hire a new police chief but they do not have many resumes submitted. The news qualified the lack of funding, the lack of support for the police in general, and the low number of police on the force. The prior police chief just went to Dallas - a much bigger city that has good funding and a healthy number of police.

This state, county, and city has allowed special interest groups to take over the standard police position within the city. Other people telling them how to do their jobs. There is no incentive for people to come here. Overall not a good scene or direction for people's safety. The "bad guys' have too any protectors and have more rights then the taxpaying citizens. The bad guys can listen to the police broadcasts that hinders their ability to do their jobs. Good - do not tell them when you are coming.


10 people like this
Posted by anon1234
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 6, 2021 at 12:32 pm

anon1234 is a registered user.

This city is turning into a dictatorship....,


20 people like this
Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 6, 2021 at 1:05 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Certainly appears that the police chief pulled a fast one. A fait accompli that appears to have been carefully timed until after the former council had had their last meeting and before the new council had their first (regular) meeting.

The question is, did the city manager know about this beforehand or was he kept in the dark too?


4 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 6, 2021 at 6:14 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I read the requirement, written on behalf of DC-bound Xavier Becerra, and my take on it is that PAPD's action was done to be in compliance with that requirement. Nonetheless, it is unsettling b/c it appears to be contrary to the drive to increase transparency vis-a-vis our police departments. So I am inclined to agree with Ms. Dong. But since I have no expertise in this, I look forward to reading comments on this from readers who do.


22 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 6, 2021 at 6:30 pm

Mark is a registered user.


I've heard this too many times from City staff, " Council has no role, we decide". Our weak (rotating) Mayor, strong City Manager form of government has created a bloated self-perpetuating city bureaucracy that is neither accountable nor effective. It is a regular feature of Palo Alto City Council meetings for the City Manager to tell Council members that they are only to create policy, and everything else, including evaluating results, is for city staff to to determine on their own. I've heard this directly from vice city managers and mid-level city managers. So, our police chief's view that they are not accountable to City Council nor need to review their plan to adopt the most extreme solution to comply with the directive is the rule, not an exception. It is an attitude that is pervasive at all levels in our city staff.


13 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 6, 2021 at 6:35 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Our local newspaper people are coming at the topic with their own agenda. Some of the recent articles concerning FHP and Police Activity have had a "spin". They are busy trying to form opinions and cherry pick facts to get to an "opinion". Be careful concerning what you read. [Portion removed.]


17 people like this
Posted by Bad Timing
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 6, 2021 at 7:07 pm

Bad Timing is a registered user.

Major strike against the city for not running this by the city council at least on the consent calendar.

Announced the same day a bloodless coup was proceeding in DC. Ominous.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 6, 2021 at 7:17 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 6, 2021 at 9:50 pm

iSez is a registered user.

Great news! Journalists are the enemy of law enforcement. We need our police to be able to do their jobs without Monday Morning Quarterbacks. I want to feel safe. Defunding the police is an obnoxious idea by hypocrites.


13 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 7, 2021 at 6:52 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

RE Mark's comments - we keep hiring consultants for jobs that the city staff is suppose to be doing. Aren't the city staff suppose to be hired for good qualifications for their jobs? Then we have "Commissioners" who are trying to run the city. New day now it is 2021 - PACC - take charge of this place. Commissioners are suppose to be helping. Not using their jobs to build their resume for political advancement at the expense of the city. Things here went out of control this summer.


2 people like this
Posted by Squidsie
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2021 at 10:27 am

Squidsie is a registered user.

How long until encrypted scanners are readily available on EBay, if they aren't already?


11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2021 at 9:39 pm

Resident is a registered user.

I have a different and disturbing take, having recently listened to many hours of PAPD dispatch over weeks. I'm a resident with experience listening to VHF radio comms in other contexts. Here, I listened over the internet after a wild crime incident near my home piqued my interest.

This is my take: encryption masks Palo Alto's thin protection. I was very surprised how few patrol officers are out there on a shift. My opinion of the number of patrol officers communicating with the dispatcher during a shift is so small that I hesitate to share my opinion in this open forum.

I'd go so far as to say I'm mildly shocked, and feel betrayed by the PA City Council for their vote to reduce police by 20% under present circumstances: within a few blocks of my home, i) a neighbor in his 80s was stabbed in/about the neck, and nearly died of his wounds; ii) a fleeing thief jettisoned a semi-auto pistol in the gutter; iii) a house was assaulted multiple times on Christmas Day, culminating in break-in; and iv) there have been numerous vehicle burglaries/thefts and vandalism/thefts of catalytic converters.

I invite new Council and new Mayor to determine how many police are on patrol during a shift, especially the overnight shift. With this information, Council should reconsider its 20% reduction.


3 people like this
Posted by Barron Parker Too
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 8, 2021 at 3:46 pm

Barron Parker Too is a registered user.

As expected, Sheyner's position, clearly revealed in his reporting, is critical of the police. He appears so intent on getting his message through that he repeats the last paragraph, about an ill-advised bill to prevent encryption so that reporters can monitor in real-time the inter-police communications.

Smart move by PAPD, to encrypt their transmissions and prevent the "bad guys" from hearing it. The system is working.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 8, 2021 at 4:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Blog from Police Chief:

Recently, the Palo Alto Police Department encrypted its radio transmissions to comply with a mandate from the California Department of Justice that requires all California law enforcement agencies to protect personal identifying information. Given recent public and media discussions on this topic, I would like to take a moment to discuss this state requirement and how it does not change the Police Department’s commitment to transparency and sharing of public information.
The Palo Alto Police Department is not the first law enforcement agency in Santa Clara County to comply with this state mandate, which local media reports have led the public to believe. In fact, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, the San Jose Police Department, the Morgan Hill Police Department, and the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety have moved their radio communications to encrypted channels. The remaining law enforcement agencies in the County are continuing to use open and unencrypted channels in the short term and are all planning to migrate to encrypted channels by the end of the calendar year at the latest. At that time, every law enforcement agency in Santa Clara County will be using encryption.


Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2021 at 4:11 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Was this the only alternative?


2 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2021 at 1:55 pm

pearl is a registered user.

BAD GUYS listen to police radio transmissions all the time! Encryption is the ONLY way to go!


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