Police scanner access fading as agencies cite safety

Colorado Community Media: Deputy Corie Chance sped in his vehicle to the scene of a shooting that would leave fellow Deputy Zackari Parrish dead and six other people injured.

Chance’s radio told him a gunman shot multiple officers the morning of Dec. 31, 2017. When he arrived on scene, word spread that an injured, unresponsive Parrish remained trapped in the gunman’s apartment, along with Parrish’s radio, feeding the suspect a stream of information.

An order went out to switch from the main radio channel to an encrypted one, but the new channel was buried under more than 15 options. Chance fumbled through channels as bullets zinged around him, searching for the right one.

The experience in Highlands Ranch is why Chance is glad the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has since encrypted — or blocked from the public — some of its main radio channels, and he hopes they encrypt all in the future.

But Jeffrey Roberts, who worked at The Denver Post as an editor and reporter for 23 years, is one of many raising concerns about the recent trend of Colorado law enforcement agencies encrypting their airwaves. Roberts is now executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, a nonprofit group that advocates for freedom of the press and open records.

Members of the public and media frequently listen to scanners or apps to follow radio chatter. It helps them gauge whether the government is serving the governed, Roberts said, or informs neighborhood watch programs.

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