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Lincoln police to encrypt primary police dispatch channels

February 12, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Most of the public will soon lose live access to Lincoln’s primary police dispatch channels.

The Lincoln Police Department instead will provide an online feed that is delayed by 10 minutes — the expected response window for officers’ highest-priority calls, the Lincoln Journal Star reported .

“This (delayed feed) will be unedited, but will allow responding officers to arrive and control the most-dynamic incidents while preventing those intent on committing crime from listening to our response,” said Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister.

News outlets will be allowed to maintain real-time access to the primary channels to ensure accountability and allow community notification when situations broadly affect public safety.

“It’s an attempt to make sure that the public still has access to that information and still protect our officers and protect emergent incidents from being exposed prematurely,” said Public Safety Director Tom Casady.

The city’s switch to a digital radio system this year offered the department an opportunity to encrypt its radio channels.

Casady and Bliemeister said they weighed concerns over privacy, officer safety and criminal apprehension against the merits of police department transparency. Police had determined that criminals such as arsonists and bank robbers have been using online scanner applications.

“The inability to openly communicate with other responding officers and dispatchers, for fear of informing criminals of our response, is a safety issue for our staff,” Bliemeister said.

The department sought input from local media, surveyed other departments and researched the issue before making the change, Bliemeister said. Some departments have completely encrypted channels, while others have specialized team channels that are encrypted in addition to primary channels that remain open.

The Lincoln Fire and Rescue channels won’t be affected by the change, Casady said.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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