The NYPD’s plan to encrypt police radios, which prevents the media and those without the proper codes from tuning in, has begun with six precincts covering Brooklyn disappearing from traditional broadcast bands this week — but that’s just the first step, NYPD Chief of Information Technology Ruben Beltran told The New York Daily News.
In the coming months, police radio encryptions are expected to spread and will be “deployed similarly,” Beltran said.
The only people being able to listen in would be the NYPD “partners” such as FDNY, EMS, other law enforcement agencies and first responders like volunteer ambulance services, Beltran said following a promotion ceremony at the NYPD Police Academy in Queens.
“We do plan to expand this as we do this upgrade to our technology,” Beltran said. “This is 40-year-old technology we are upgrading.”
Beltran wouldn’t give a timeline on the upgrades, except to say that it’s a “multi-year process.”
He said the department is evaluating methods that would allow media outlets to listen in, but gave no promises at Friday’s press conference.
“We’re trying to see what will be the best balance between keeping the police safe, the community safe and media access,” Beltran said.
Methods used by other cities that have encrypted their police radios include broadcasting the messages to the public on a 30-minute delay so police could get to the scene before reporters and cameramen do.
The NYPD has been working on ways to encrypt their radios before the pandemic, claiming it would prevent criminals from listening in and act on information about police movements they glean from the broadcasts.
“We have a history of our radios being used againt us,” Beltran said. “Our radios are one of the most important pieces of technology we have. It’s more important than our firearms, but they’re also hijacked by adversaries and bad actors.”
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