Why Many California Police Departments Are Now Encrypting Their Radio Communications

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Why Many California Police Departments Are Now Encrypting Their Radio Communications


The department is the latest law enforcement agency in the county and state to cut off access to radio communications in response to a California Department of Justice mandate that required agencies to protect certain personal information that law enforcement personnel obtain from state databases. Such information — names, drivers license numbers, dates of birth and other information from the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, or CLETS — sometimes is broadcast over police radios.

The October 2020 mandate gave agencies two options: to limit the transmission of database-obtained personal information on public channels or to encrypt their radio traffic. Police reform advocates say the switch to encrypted channels is problematic. The radio silence, they say, will force members of the public, including the news media, to rely on law enforcement agencies' discretion in releasing information about public safety matters....

A sheriff's spokesperson has said the department is exploring ways to disseminate information about incidents as they unfold. One idea is an online page that would show information about calls to which deputies respond.
 
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