Denver police could be next to go silent as more Colorado agencies encrypt their radio traffic

The Denver Post: The public may no longer be able to listen to Denver police radio communications if the department moves forward with a proposal to encrypt all of its radios in the coming months, the latest in a string of Colorado law enforcement agencies to consider blocking the public from listening to officers and dispatchers communicate in real time.

A final decision about encryption has yet to be made, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said. Police need the encryption to keep personal information about victims or people who call 911 from being broadcast on publicly accessible channels, he said. Police have also found suspects who have used scanners to monitor police communications to commit crime and avoid arrest, he said.

“We need to balance these public safety needs and the very real need for transparency,” Pazen said.

But encryption, if implemented, would hinder news reporters’ ability to monitor breaking news situations and reduce news organizations’ ability to act as watchdogs over police, representatives for news media and advocates for public access to governmental records said. As an increasing number of Colorado agencies encrypt, the public loses oversight over the law enforcement agencies they fund, they said.

“The department becomes a filter for what gets out there and what doesn’t get out there,” said Jeffrey Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

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