Q & A: Encrypted Police Communication


The issue of encrypted police communications is likely to come up at Tuesday evening's Little Rock city board of directors meeting.New Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner has only been on the job for a month and the decision to encrypt all scanner communication was not his decision. But he supports it.We asked Chief Buckner at one of his open forums Monday night if the decision to encrypt Little Rock police scanner communication was made openly or if it was more of a sneak attack on the public and the press."I don't know how it was initially presented," says Chief Buckner. "I can tell you that the decision to encrypt the channels was a public safety issue and that is why we chose to do that. There is really no good way to deliver bad news. I know that some folks will be upset about not having access to that information. But my reason for doing that was because of public safety for our officers."On Monday we submitted six encryption questions to the Little Rock police department. As of news time only two had been answered.Encrypted scanner traffic is recorded and subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.And no grant money was used to pay for the encryption process.Our remaining questions were answered via email the day after this story was broadcast: Would LRPD share its encryption key or code with the media? ANSWER: The chief and city officials are working on that decision now.Why is encryption better than switching to private communication channels, or P-Comm? ANSWER: In most instances switching over to a separate channel isn't difficult. However, there are instances when switching over isn't as practical. Pursuits, bank robberies, etc...,often have information detailed by the officer or Communications that shouldn't be released. Whether it be juvenile information or direction of travel, that information isn't vetted, but listeners can, and have, put inaccurate information on social media.Why did the LRPD choose to go with ADP encryption rather than other more secure, more expensive options? ANSWER: ADP was chosen because we needed to be able to communicate with other non-police agencies like MEMS.And when will the department's promised new strategies to keep the media and public informed be ready? ANSWER: Once a decision has been reached on (question) number 1 (will LRPD share its encryption key or code with the media) a strategy will be discussed and implemented shortly after. No target date.Getting the media or anyone else equipped to listen to encrypted police communication is a moot point right now. That's because Arkansas law prohibits anyone other than law enforcement or emergency responders from listening to or using the technology. Air date: August 5th, 2014

AR Code Ann: 5-54-130: Radio voice privacy adapters

(a) It is unlawful for any person other than a law enforcement officer or law enforcement agency or fire department or employee of a law enforcement agency or fire department to own or operate or possess any radio equipment described as a voice privacy adapter or any other device capable of receiving and decoding police and fire department communications that have been transmitted through a voice privacy adapter.

(b) The provisions of this section does not apply to any police department or agency or any other agency having law enforcement responsibility not to a fire department or any political subdivision of this state.

(c) Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a violation and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty dollars ($50.00) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500).

(d) As used in this section, "person" means any person, firm, corporation, association, club, co partnership, society, or any other organization.