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Palo Alto police push back against attempts to reverse radio encryption

Original post made on Mar 25, 2022

Palo Alto police are pushing back against attempts by some members of the City Council to reverse its policy of encrypting police radio communication, which prevents the public from monitoring police activities.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 25, 2022, 4:33 PM

Comments (20)

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2022 at 6:00 pm

felix is a registered user.

We don’t want to rely on the PAPDs social media or its own press releases. Or the City’s.

The whole point is for the press, and hence the public, to have independent immediate access to information free of spin - which the PAPD and City well know. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

This is a matter of First Amendment Free Press that the police are trying to shut down.

The City should support Beckers Bill now so others in the Legislature will know Palo Alto is all in and they should be too.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 26, 2022 at 10:10 am

Online Name is a registered user.

More pushback against transparency while crime rises, while we get "requests for help" from PAPD days after the fact as if we remember which way a white car was driving days ago, when we keep reading posts like the recent one on Nextdoor wondering what 6 cop cars and suspects in handcuffs at Colorado Ave were all about....

LUDICROUS. The current police chief shouldn't be running for County Sheriff and it's high time for the Asst. Police Chief to stop this nonsense along with the City Manager and City Council.


Posted by Barbara G
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 28, 2022 at 10:45 am

Barbara G is a registered user.

PAPD and other public servants - including the City Council - conduct far too much business in private. This is unacceptable. No discussion or negotiation needed.

There is literally no reason for closed doors unless they're hiding inappropriate and/or illegal activities. Period.


Posted by ArtL
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 28, 2022 at 11:03 am

ArtL is a registered user.

This is why Palo Alto needs to hire a police chief who will make transparency and openness of police activity paramount. This requires a chief whose primary focus will be supporting the interests of citizens, in addition to suppporting the men and women of the police force. We love the police - it's a very hard job , but we want the police to love us, too.


Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 28, 2022 at 12:19 pm

rita vrhel is a registered user.

Agree with the comments above. We elect the City Council; they are tasked with setting what happens in Palo Alto. NOT the Police Chief or the City Manager. both work at the direction of the elected City Council.

Over the last several years it has been harder and harder to find information on the changed City website. Before it was so easy.

Packets are sent to the City Council, PTC and ARB (by staff) which do not contain vital information but are linked.. making it harder for the City Council members to find information.

Public Records Requests do not contain documents attached to staff emails.....making the information incomplete.

My 6/21 request for all information to date on the Melville Public Utility Easement crucial to Castilleja's expansion plans/underground garage has not been received despite email requests to Amy French, help from Brad Eggleston and an email to PA's City Manager.

Question: Is there any proof/ statistics/data showing that not having encryption puts our police at risk? Should be easy enough to answer.

City Council: please take back control of Palo Alto governance! Don't let others make the rules in private. Thank you.


Posted by Barron Parker Too
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 28, 2022 at 5:54 pm

Barron Parker Too is a registered user.

Becker, along with several progressive members of the California Senate are on a roll to take control away from local (city and county) governments, in all ways they can. For example, the California senate has pushed (and Newsom has signed) SB9 and SB10, which will allow a large number of housing units to be built on R1 lots throughout the city and especially along "transportation corridors" -- nullifying all local regulation and planning. Palo Alto has been looking for ways to avoid having this crammed down our throats (metaphorically).

Becker's SB1000 is yet another example of Sacramento legislative overreach. The sensible approach for Palo Alto is to admit the reasonableness of the request by the police, which is simply to wait for legislative analysis of SB1000, and in particular, of the alternatives to full encryption. Palo Alto should not be rushed into taking a stand in opposition to our police force, by armchair activists who neither understand the dangers of having police communications in the open and monitored by criminals, nor appreciate the logistical issues the police face that are associated with alternatives to encryption.


Posted by Crescent Park Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 28, 2022 at 6:15 pm

Crescent Park Mom is a registered user.

The jobs of our first responders are hard enough. They know what they need to get their jobs done well and safely. Palo Alto first responders are good people. I don't need to breathe down their necks. If they say its better for communications to stay encrypted, fine with me.


Posted by Jim Donnegan
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 31, 2022 at 9:48 am

Jim Donnegan is a registered user.

The question is...why are the police so adamant about concealing their communications & activities from the public?

Law enforcement security measures is not an acceptable nor a logical reason.


Posted by Duveneck neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 31, 2022 at 10:36 am

Duveneck neighbor is a registered user.

@Crescent Park Mom:

The problem is, we can no longer trust what our police and related managers (City Mgr, PD Chief, City Attorney, Medical Examiner) say.

We know they hide information from the public which demonstrates their illegal and unethical and immoral behaviors.

We know it is not simply one 'bad apple', but that all the officers who observe bad behavior on our behalf, fail in their sworn duty to report, criticize, correct.

We know we the people have paid millions of dollars in lawsuits related to this illegal, unethical, and immoral behavior.

Therefore, police have demonstrated they, as a group, not simply as individuals, are no longer worthy of our trust.

It is false to say, 'Palo Alto responders are good people.' They have proven otherwise. It is a non sequitur to say, 'If they say its better for communications to stay encrypted', then their word is all we need. Their word has been proven untrustworthy.

We must identify law enforcement personnel willing to work with us all, to improve training, tactics, and technology, to at once keep the public safe, AND keep law enforcement staff safe. Both objectives are achievable, at once; one objective does not exclude the other. Those unwilling to work with us... those who insist on the status quo of power, secrecy, and repeated bad behavior, must be given full pensions, and shown the door.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 31, 2022 at 3:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

We have a nice natural experiment here - some agencies have had encryption in place for months. Was there any change in those agencies performance i.e. did they catch more criminals while being encrypted? If not, then why encrypt?


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 1, 2022 at 6:14 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Peter Carpenter, excellent question. It would be nice to have answers.

Also, it was interesting how the other paper handled its PAPD police blotter listing earlier this week; instead of publishing a few crimes they devoted the entire entry to calling out PAPD for consistently providing incomplete police blotter entries. The next day they corrected a police blotter entry to provide much more complete information.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 2, 2022 at 9:40 am

Annette is a registered user.

I hope Santa Clara County voters are paying close attention to what's going on in Palo Alto.


Posted by Luke Hoskins
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Apr 2, 2022 at 9:50 am

Luke Hoskins is a registered user.

The city's top administrators are most likely under pressure from the police union not to disclose any information that may be perceived as unflattering towards the PAPD & its officers.

As a result, encryption measures have been implemented by the chief of police.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 2, 2022 at 10:33 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Over the years I have counseled a lot of young people considering public safety careers.

In general (but not always) those wanting to be in control become police officers and those wishing to take care of others become firefighters.

That selection bias shapes the culture of both police departments and fire departments.

I have never seen a firefighter or fire department that was not proud of the public display of their fire calls.

Web Link


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 2, 2022 at 11:34 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Excellent reminder, Annette, but sort of unlikely given the fragmentation of the local media. Wondering what sort of endorsements he'll get for his run as sheriff and whose quotes he'll use in his ads.


Posted by Eeyore (formerly StarSpring)
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 3, 2022 at 9:07 pm

Eeyore (formerly StarSpring) is a registered user.

We don’t need secrets police,. Fire the City. manager (should have been done long ago), along with the police chief. We don’t need a Donald Trump mindset to take root here.


Posted by Pat Broderick
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 4, 2022 at 11:02 am

Pat Broderick is a registered user.

"Fire the City. manager (should have been done long ago), along with the police chief. "

Easier said than done + an ongoing question remains...why is the PACC so ineffectual towards addressing and resolving these issues?


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 6, 2022 at 1:08 pm

Annette is a registered user.

And why is Jonsen the one the City is turning to for leadership on this? He's put himself – and thus the City - in a compromised position. He has resigned and he is running for Sheriff. It makes sense that he will want/need Union support to be elected. The Union favors encryption. It's not much of a leap to conclude that, when Jonsen asked the DOJ if Palo Alto could revert to being un-encrypted, the question was asked in a way that elicited the "NO" answer that he hoped for. This is a very disturbing development. And surprising given the tenor of the discussion and the Q&A at Monday's CC meeting.

Transparency foiled by concerns about “interoperability”. If that doesn’t smack of unnecessary, unproductive, bureaucratic sausage, nothing does. I want the police to be safe, but do not accept that this has to come at the expense of transparency.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2022 at 1:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

We have had decades of open police radio transmissions.

Please document how anyone has been harmed by that.

Allowing the police to operate in secret means that we will have a secret police - is that what the citizens want?


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 6, 2022 at 1:19 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

""Fire the City. manager (should have been done long ago), along with the police chief. "

Easier said than done + an ongoing question remains...why is the PACC so ineffectual towards addressing and resolving these issues?"

Maybe because the previous CC under Liz Kniss awarded him a full extra year's salary, benefits and vesting if he's forced to resign or fired. The fact that she insisted that he be the ONLY candidate interviewed and that he learned to add that golden parachute clause when he left his job in San Jose didn't matter to her.


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