Lincoln officials mull police radio dispatch accessibility
Aug. 07, 2017
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Lincoln officials are considering restricting public access to police radio dispatches.
Public safety officials are seeking internal input about access to the police department's primary channels as well as feedback from media outlets and others, the Lincoln Journal Star reported .
Dispatchers on police radio channels relay information to officers on everything from minor crashes to shootings. News outlets often depend on those channels to track crimes and accidents in the city.
Public Safety Director Tom Casady said the city's switch to a new digital radio system by early 2018 gives the police department the option to encrypt its radio channels. He said the potential for encryption has officials weighing privacy, officer safety and criminal apprehension concerns while considering the merits of police transparency.
Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister said he's seen cases in which scanner apps have been used to evade capture or put others at risk. He also said he's concerned about the privacy of people who are the subject of dispatches, such as sexual assault or domestic violence victims.
"We have specific examples that span mental health investigations to homicides where people. ... were able to access our primary dispatch channels to avoid detection or to modify their strategies when committing crimes," Bliemeister said.
Lincoln residents who listen to the broadcasts on scanners or streams say they provide a window into what's going on in the city and how the community is being policed.
"The public has a right to that information, but it's also safety-first," said Wesley Bosco, a resident of Lincoln.
Bosco, who grew up listening to dispatches, said he would be fine with a delayed feed of the primary channels online.
Casady said that Lincoln Fire and Rescue's radio channels would still be publicly available live, and that news outlets could buy specially programmed radios from the city to access the primary police channels in real time.
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com