The St. Louis Police Department started to encrypt its radio system Friday morning, after protestors published police movements and 911 calls.
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Chief of the St. Louis Police Department, Sam Dotson, was the one who decided to encrypt radio communications.
“As police officers were moving to another location or giving tactical directions, people were reacting to it,” Dotson said. “It became even more alarming to me as we started to look into last night that as 911 calls would occur and officers would be dispatched to certain addresses, those addresses were also being shared on social media.”
Protestors were able to track St. Louis Police Department’s movements through the simple download of a scanner app on smartphones. Publishing these movements online crossed the line, according to Dotson.
“I know enthusiasts and hobbyists like to listen to police scanners,” he said. “Last night when we were doing our operations, it became challenging for us. As we would prepare, anticipate, redeploy resources, we would see those actions being transcribed and being put on social media.”
Dotson said that this decision was a difficult one. Many have called for police transparency, but encrypting St. Louis Police Department’s radio communication is working against that.
“I think the final decision, the point for me last night, was when 911 dispatchers were dispatching calls to specific addresses [and] those address were being shared to social media. ‘Such and such address just called the police’ — that’s a public safety issue. I wanted to make sure we were keeping everybody safe.”
“With recent events of unrest in our city and around the region, the decision to encrypt the department’s radio communication system is paramount to ensuring the safety of the 1,300 officers of this department, as well as the citizens we serve,” Dotson said in a release.
The St Louis. Police Department radio system is now fully encrypted. Outsiders with scanner apps can no longer tune in, and police actions are now fully masked. Dotson did not comment on how long the encryption would remain in place.
[Image via Google Images]