For the record, it’s mostly bad.
At the beginning of October a South DaCola foot soldier informs me that the SFPD and Rapid City PD would be encrypting ALL police radio traffic on scanners. This was one of my better sources who is usually spot on with city hall tidbits. I do a little research on my own and found this has been a trend across the country and has been abused by some local government entities so badly states like California have been passing additional legislation that stops them from encrypting all calls.
I was getting nowhere with others in local government to verify this was the case (the council was likely left in the dark on this decision). I passed it on to a trusted local journalist but they were unable to put a story together before the SFPD made an announcement yesterday. I have been openly talking to people about the encryption over the past couple of weeks seeing if anyone knew more, so I am sure that made it up the chain of command that others in town were talking about it and unlike the dead animal blowup, they better announce this before the media does.
While the mayor has the right and the duty according to charter to manage the police department, the city council has the power to create policy and ordinances that the SFPD must enforce.
In other words, the mayor has the right to direct the SFPD to do this, and the council is powerless in directly managing the police department, but they CAN create an ordinance that pulls back the encryption guidelines. They would likely have to do this in coordination with the Lincoln and Minnehaha County Commissions.
I know, a big lift, but I do think there are some councilors and commissioners that would be willing to sponsor such legislation.
Originally created by the FEDS, the encryption is allowed for many reasons, mostly for sensitive medical situations or sting operations, but many local governments decided to just encrypt all calls, mostly out of laziness and in the name of closed government.
Called Project 25, it has been an effort for switching police radios from analog to digital which basically makes encrypting as easy as pressing a button, so the argument that it is just easier to encrypt ALL calls is about as pathetic and lazy as you can get.
I do understand that there are probably many reasons you would want to encrypt a police call, as I mentioned above, but like most new technologies, criminals will be ahead of the curve, and keeping valuable information from the general public so you can catch a couple of bad guys just doesn’t cut it for me.
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – Ben Franklin
This is about keeping information from the media and the public and little else and just another example of the slow (fast) degradation of open government in Sioux Falls. While I don’t need to know if Gladys Johnson fell down in her shower on North Duluth Avenue, it would be nice to know when a man-made disaster is happening in real time.
I have a feeling the ACLU or a similar civil liberties organization will be challenging this decision, but it is sticky.
At first glance, I think SF and RC have the legal authority to do this, BUT like most open government laws in our state, it gives local governments wide authority to abuse their power.
Unless the counties, the cities involved and the state change laws and ordinances, it looks like next month we will experience radio silence.
I wonder if they are also encrypting the tornado sirens?