Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Encryption Communications The Media United States IT

Pasadena Police Encrypt, Deny Access To Police Radio 487

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-broadcast-where-their-combat-UAVs-are dept.
An anonymous reader writes "There is media (but not public?) outcry over the Pasadena, CA police switch from analog radio that can be picked up by scanners to encrypted digital radio that cannot. 'On Friday, Pasadena police Lt. Phlunte Riddle said the department was unsure whether it could accommodate the media with digital scanners. Riddle said the greatest concern remains officer safety. "People who do bank robberies use scanners, and Radio Shack sells these things cheap," Riddle said. "We just had a robbery today on Hill Avenue and Washington Boulevard," Riddle said. "The last thing I want to do is to have the helicopter or the officers set up on the street and the criminals have a scanner and know where our officers are." Just prior to the switch over, city staffers said they would look into granting access to police radio chatter, most likely by loaning media outlets a scanner capable of picking up the secure signal.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Pasadena Police Encrypt, Deny Access To Police Radio

Comments Filter:
  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kell Bengal (711123) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:17AM (#38963529)
    So, the police have a legitimate reason for securing their network, and have discussed options accommodating other stake-holders who might be inconvenienced by improving their system's security. It sounds to me like the police are handling this sanely and fairly. What's the problem here?
    • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by errandum (2014454) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:23AM (#38963563)

      The problem is the status quo. People got used to have access to something (and I'm sure some have a legitimate reason for it), so it is conisdered bad form to remove said feature. That's the way I see it, at least.

      • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Z00L00K (682162) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:19AM (#38963851) Homepage

        Why not present the radio traffic time lapsed on the web?

        A delay of up to an hour wouldn't hurt the news agencies that much and still would keep any criminals off track.

        It also allows for the possibility to further delay or even cut traffic in special cases.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          There's two angles to this.

          Realtime radio chatter is useful for getting data out to the media, for safety or media-assists. Examples: Amber Alert, Traffic accidents, police chases, armed robbery. The less people that get caught in the crossfire the better.

          Non-realtime radio chatter is less useful, but allows for the media to scrape through it, but doesn't allow the media to alert the public to dangerous situations to stay clear of.

          Some compromise is needed. For example the 24 hour news networks like CNN, co

          • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by psiclops (1011105) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:09AM (#38964333)

            or if there were something that the police thought the public should be aware of for their own safety then perhaps they could just i dunno, tell the media?

            • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:09AM (#38964771) Homepage

              The way the police are headed recently we need every single control and check possible over what they say and do. Letting them censor their own communications is a bad idea.

              *Everything* the police does should be made public. If it was up to me I'd have every public servant walking around with a video camera on his shoulder recording everything they say/do. We need to watch the watchmen.

              OTOH, yes, letting criminals listen in real time isn't good - it helps them get away. There's a better solution then 'encrypt everything' though...

              • by Joe Snipe (224958)

                It's a perfectly sane and rational argument IF the number if active criminals that use scanners to circumvent police activity is signifigant. It's not.

              • by Dishevel (1105119)

                Come now.
                Be reasonable, They can already put us in jail for pointing a cellphone at them. Not allowed to record what they do already.
                In Fullerton they murdered a guy, A bunch of cops watched while one got mad and beat him to death.
                I am a conservative. (More of Less)
                Cops though have got to become a smaller force that we expect better of. Till then. Fuck the bad ones, and fuck all the rest that do not do anything about it.

            • by DrXym (126579)

              or if there were something that the police thought the public should be aware of for their own safety then perhaps they could just i dunno, tell the media?

              As is the case in other countries. In the UK for example you can listen to the police radio (assuming it isn't encrypted which is the default), but you can't act on anything you hear. So the TV couldn't report a chase was in progress unless the police had issued a warning to that effect.

        • by jamesh (87723)

          Why not present the radio traffic time lapsed on the web?

          A delay of up to an hour wouldn't hurt the news agencies that much and still would keep any criminals off track.

          It also allows for the possibility to further delay or even cut traffic in special cases.

          That last point could make for very interesting speculation when the airwaves suddenly go dead for unknown reasons.

          "Oh damn. I just shot an unarmed little girl. She's bleeding everywhere. Call the ambulance, but first call dispatch and get this censored."

        • Re:So? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:13AM (#38964571)

          I worked for the IT department for a large PD in Australia and this is what we did.
          Jobs were release or not with delays based on certain criteria:

          Release information by direct data-feed dispatch about all job
          types, with the following exceptions:
          A Job types to be excluded
              mentally ill person
            offences against children
            shop-steal child
            absconder hospital/institution
            absconder juvenile
            rape
            attempted rape
            indecent assault
            wilful exposure
            indecent acts
            domestic violence
            suspect terrorist activity
          B Job types to be released after a one-hour delay
            armed person
            siege
            shots red
            hijack
            hostage taken
            bomb threat
            sudden death
          C Discretionary delay
            Authority to withhold or exclude a job from release should reside with the
          Duty Ofcer, Police Communications Centre and be based on documented
          compelling and demonstrable public safety or police safety reasons.

        • by Synn (6288)

          > Why not present the radio traffic time lapsed on the web?

          Why not use the money you'd spend on something like that to hire another cop to patrol the streets instead?

      • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by symbolset (646467) * on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:27AM (#38963907) Journal

        I'm actually surprised it took them this long. Operational security is important, and bad guys listening on scanners has been a fiction theme for what, 25 years? It's been well proven to happen in practice too.

        And no, for the commenter above, time delay doesn't work. Even response times, the names and numbers of units, processes and practices are all operational security elements that can be exploited by criminals and these would be revealed by a time-delayed online stream. Besides, providing it requires public moneys put to a use outside the police department budget.

        I'm as suspicious of some members of the police as the next guy, and feel they generally need good supervision. But transmitting their radio signals in the clear is a simple detriment to the public safety mission.

        • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by walshy007 (906710) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:52AM (#38964001)

          Even response times, the names and numbers of units, processes and practices are all operational security elements that can be exploited by criminals and these would be revealed by a time-delayed online stream.

          By this logic, the public should have no method of determining their local police forces typical response times, how well or under staffed they are, etc. Being able to not reveal a thing to the public might do wonders for the security of the police, but without some oversight how can you tell if the police are doing their job well or not?

          • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by EdIII (1114411) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:19AM (#38964107)

            In other words.... Operational Security is for military operations. Last time I checked we lived in a free society in which our military is 100% separated from civilians. By that I mean that a Colonel armed with a gun can't walk around the streets and start ordering civilians to do anything, unlike some parts of the world.

            Operational Security does not apply to law enforcement. Once you take away the tremendous bullshit of the War on Drugs, just how much "Operational Security" is really required on a day-to-day basis? I suspect a hell of lot less than anything that would justify it.

            The public safety mission is harmed when you take away oversight and accountability. Radio signals in the clear is part of oversight and accountability. The public has every right to know response times, unit numbers, processes, practices, methodologies, etc. After all, they work for us.

            Is the proper balance being struck here? Somehow I doubt it.

            Now in situations in which a SWAT team is actually required I don't object to some Operational Security during that particular operation and full disclosure afterwards. Those situations are fairly rare when compared against all crime, once you exclude all the aforementioned bullshit of the drug war.

            Law enforcement will never be able to justify to me why their actions cannot be 100% transparent.

            • Re:So? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:19AM (#38964367)

              Law enforcement will never be able to justify to me why their actions cannot be 100% transparent.

              Because they have a job that's far less dangerous than fishing for crab off Alaska.

              Snark aside, that's the usual bullshit excuse - that they're risking their lives and all that. Sure, there are a very few places in this country where officers would probably increase their safety by volunteering instead to sweep for IEDs by hand in Iraq. But by and large, the common knowledge of it being dangerous to be a cop is absurdly overstated. Yet this continues to justify military-like armaments, ridiculous pay and pension, effective immunity from prosecution, a lack of transparency and oversight, et cetera.

            • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

              by peawormsworth (1575267) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:42AM (#38964669)

              The public safety mission is harmed when you take away oversight and accountability. Radio signals in the clear is part of oversight and accountability. The public has every right to know response times, unit numbers, processes, practices, methodologies, etc. After all, they work for us.

              Law enforcement will never be able to justify to me why their actions cannot be 100% transparent.

              Save your battle for the right to take video of the police in public. Laws that prevent you from filming anyone in public is a real issue. This is work communication and rarely if ever do I hear of it being used to for oversight of the police. Videos of police abuse is the number 1 way to find the few bad apples in the force who cannot handle the authority they are entrusted with.

              Perhaps there is an argument to have all police radio communication recorded and make it available to the courts and requests from the public for release later. I just dont think real time eavesdropping on the police will make a difference in watching over the police for abuse.

              • Re:So? (Score:4, Informative)

                by Mister Transistor (259842) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:05AM (#38964989) Journal

                Interesting choice of words, "work communications". When I was learning about radio and the frequency band assignments, I noticed the UHF Police frequencies are in what is designated by the FCC as "Business Band", unlike the VHF frequencies where Police have a specific sub-band or slot of frequencies assigned by the govt'. I asked my mentor why they were in the Business Band, and he said "What they discussing over the air? Police Business!" Kind of funny, but it always stuck in my memory.

                As to your comment, all the dispatch traffic on all channels is ALREADY continuously recorded in case there is a need later to inspect the information to figure out what happened during a shoot-out or whatever. So yes, audio can and is used for oversight, but If the information is needed it is already there, and it can be reviewed and perhaps released if necessary.

          • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by gl4ss (559668) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:48AM (#38964239) Homepage Journal

            Even response times, the names and numbers of units, processes and practices are all operational security elements that can be exploited by criminals and these would be revealed by a time-delayed online stream.

            By this logic, the public should have no method of determining their local police forces typical response times, how well or under staffed they are, etc. Being able to not reveal a thing to the public might do wonders for the security of the police, but without some oversight how can you tell if the police are doing their job well or not?

            those are operational statistics, response times etc can be combined by just having some 3rd party audit guy go through the feed recordings.

            just give a time delay feed, if they really need to have something. just giving few media members decode radios just opens the cesspit of "who exactly is media?". relying on them for catching dirty cops etc is a no go anyways, it's not like they don't have cellphones, in situation where everyone can listen to the radio if I were a legit cop I'd use cellphones too to respond to bank robberies and to arrange busts.

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            Even response times, the names and numbers of units, processes and practices are all operational security elements that can be exploited by criminals and these would be revealed by a time-delayed online stream.

            By this logic, the public should have no method of determining their local police forces typical response times, how well or under staffed they are, etc. Being able to not reveal a thing to the public might do wonders for the security of the police, but without some oversight how can you tell if the police are doing their job well or not?

            I think the point is that you don't have any right to that information in real time. Of course it would fucking help criminals if they definitely knew that at the moment they were burgling a house there were no police within twenty minutes response time.

      • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tqk (413719) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:48AM (#38963983)

        People got used to have access to something (and I'm sure some have a legitimate reason for it) ...

        This is about internal police comm channels. What legitimate reason is there to allow others to tap into that? Freedom of the press and all that, sure, but facilitation of the press by the police, why?

        The cops don't owe the press anything, and they should be thankful for the free ride they've had until now.

        Fifth Estate, go do your damned job. It's your job to figure out how to do that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RobbieCrash (834439)

      Not only that, but this is exactly the kind of thing that people suggest as an effective solution all the time. Comments like "If they're not smart enough to encrypt their transmissions, it's their own fault for having people intercept them."

    • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by johngaunt (414543) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:32AM (#38963625)

      My only problem with this scheme, and I work for the local constabulatory as a civilian, is that they hope to give preferential treatment to the 'press'. If they won't let Joe Citizen have access to, then no one should. Just because you work for a paper or TV or Radio station doesn't make you better or more able to access information than anyone else. Maybe it's different in California, but where I live, there is no law granting the 'press' special powers or privilege to information that is denied to everyone else.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        My only problem with this scheme, and I work for the local constabulatory as a civilian, is that they hope to give preferential treatment to the 'press'. If they won't let Joe Citizen have access to, then no one should. Just because you work for a paper or TV or Radio station doesn't make you better or more able to access information than anyone else. Maybe it's different in California, but where I live, there is no law granting the 'press' special powers or privilege to information that is denied to everyone else

        The problem with that is, at least right now, they would not Dare say something into the radio such as "Hey disregard that 911 call, that's the guy who banged my wife" or "That's the prick that tried to assert his 'rights' with me, so be sure to rough him up after dealing with that burglar"

        At least with press access, they still wouldn't dare say such a thing, while still having their legit communications secured.

        We all know what atrocities the US government covers up and classifies so proper legal action ca

        • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Gription (1006467) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:34AM (#38964421)
          Ding,ding,ding,ding! We have a winner!!!

          Government unobserved very quickly starts to smell very bad. Often government only has to obfuscate their actions in plain sight to hide their actions. The City of Bell in Los Angeles is a prime example. Take an organization that is granted extraordinary powers, self regulated, and (when caught out) investigates itself and you have a recipe for disaster. The only protection that the public has to protect itself is to be able to observe in a meaningful manner the actions of the police.

          Do you think that police are good and magically 'special' so they can be trusted? It is a pretty well excepted fact that a single person, observed, will tend to make choices that we would describe as moral simply because they are being observed. You put together a group of like minded people and then you can start to see really questionable behavior. When you get really large masses of people in a hierarchy then you can get truly obscene, despotic behavior. Question any police officer you know and you will find seeds of this. They have a culture ingrained with the idea that the laws don't really apply to them combined with equal parts of "they are a brotherhood that stands apart" and the fact that they investigate themselves.

          Ask any police officer you know if they have chosen to not give a 'brother officer' a traffic citation simply because they are a police officer ("One of the brotherhood"). They will say things like "professional courtesy" and if pressed for a better reason will come up with something like, "I don't give them a ticket because this is someone that I might have to count on to back me up in an emergency situation at a moments notice". Really!??? The police officer's excuse breaks down to, "a policeman might be so unreliable and sophomoric to not pitch in during an emergency situation because someone gave them a traffic ticket"? I don't believe that answer for a minute even though the officer probably believes it, because it has been ingrained in him through the culture of his department and training.
          Let's break it down:
          - They can choose which laws apply to their brotherhood.
          - They have a culture of protecting their own before they protect the public. (all people are this way)
          - They are put in situations where on an average day they see the worst in humanity and the normal human thing to do is to anticipate/expect/look-for that behavior out of of every new person they meet.
          - They have a culture of secrecy.
          - And then they investigate themselves and only they can decide to send one of their own in front of a judge.
          - - - - - - - - -

          Trust your government as far as you can spit upwind in a hurricane. A government unobserved is a recipe for tyranny... and the baking time till ready is almost instantaneous. Remember that Morality is a function of consciousness, and a government (or corporation) is not conscious so it cannot make moral choices. They may appear moral or the actions may agree with your moral choices but that doesn't make them moral choices.
          It is actually just a big process populated by people wanting to justify their own positions and to a large part by people who think citizens are accountable to 'The Process instead of the other way around. A big thing to look for are governments that think that the constituents are their source of revenue. This tells you what the people at the top think the relationship is. And everyone else in the hierarchy is sucking from the teat above them so you know how the Kool-Aid is distributed.
      • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:09AM (#38963799)

        ... Maybe it's different in California, but where I live, there is no law granting the 'press' special powers or privilege to information that is denied to everyone else ...

        The press would like us to believe otherwise but it is the same in the U.S. The only right that the press has is that it can not be muzzled, it has a Constitutionally guaranteed right to speak. It has no right to access the government beyond what a normal citizen may nor does it have any immunity from laws when pursuing a story. If they wiretap, trespass, etc they can be arrested and prosecuted.

        When the press is treated advantageously compared to a normal citizen it is merely a courtesy or politics. Nothing in the Constitution requires it.

        • I would like to point out that your use of the term "press" in this post can be misleading (although nothng about your post is inaccurate). People often make the mistake of thinking (a mistake that the media generally encourages) that when the First Amendment says "freedom...of the press" it is referring to the media when in fact it is referring to the freedom of the average citizen to use a printing press to publish their ideas.

          The only right that the press has is that it can not be muzzled, it has a Constitutionally guaranteed right to speak.

          Just as any other citizen has. The media is given no rights in the Constitution

    • Re:So? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:03AM (#38963773) Journal

      So, the police have a legitimate reason for securing their network, and have discussed options accommodating other stake-holders who might be inconvenienced by improving their system's security.

      This presumes that "the public" isn't one of the stake-holders.
      While it's nice that the media acts keeps an eye on our interests, that doesn't abrogate any of the public's rights.

      I, for one, am not in favor of more secrecy for the police.
      More often than not, the less transparent a police force is, the more they're hiding.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        ... While it's nice that the media acts keeps an eye on our interests ...

        No, the media acts on its own interests, selling ears and eyeballs to advertisers. When they protect our interests that is a happy coincidence and subordinate to their business or political interests.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        I, for one, am not in favor of more secrecy for the police. More often than not, the less transparent a police force is, the more they're hiding..

        Not broadcasting your operational details in real time is hardly secrecy. I do not expect to be given access to MI5's emails and telephone conversations in real time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fearofcarpet (654438)

      So, the police have a legitimate reason for securing their network, and have discussed options accommodating other stake-holders who might be inconvenienced by improving their system's security. It sounds to me like the police are handling this sanely and fairly. What's the problem here?

      If digital radio encryption is actually secure, then nothing--provided they adhere to their promise of keeping "chatter" open and loaning the media (i.e., the fourth branch of government) secure scanners to maintain accountability. However, they may run into the false sense of security problem; if criminals break the encryption and start listening in to conversations that the police think are secure, then they have only succeeded in making police scanners useless for civilians, but far more useful for crimi

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        I think you are absolutely right, and both the police and the military should publish all their operational detials live online, maybe using both facebook and twitter, as well as SMS alerts for when something particularly sensitive is about to happen.

        It makes you wonder what all the fuss over Wikileaks was about.
    • by nazsco (695026) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:08AM (#38964061) Journal

      If you think this will prevent the bank robbers from listening, you are naive beyond salvation.

      The only thing this will do is prevent the public and media from listening to what your watchers are doing. ONLY THAT!

      if now the robbers tune in with a $5 radio, tomorrow they will tune in with a $5000 radio or $5000 bribe, or a loot share for more people eying the police and reporting to them with $5 radios.
      anyway, they will get around it. because well, that's the minimal investment on their part. the big investment is they risking their lives or freedom behind bars. and that they are already committing.

    • So, the police have a legitimate reason for securing their network, and have discussed options accommodating other stake-holders who might be inconvenienced by improving their system's security. It sounds to me like the police are handling this sanely and fairly. What's the problem here?

      ...but the ambulance chasers.. erhm "media" might not be the first to get to the hospital to harass victims!

    • by bgat (123664)

      So, the police have a legitimate reason for securing their network, and have discussed options accommodating other stake-holders who might be inconvenienced by improving their system's security. It sounds to me like the police are handling this sanely and fairly. What's the problem here?

      The problem, as I see it, is that without access to their network, the population they are sworn to protect cannot verify for themselves the legitimacy of the need to secure the system on an ongoing basis.

      The US Constitution grants US citizens certain rights for observing the behaviors of the State, and the monitoring of police scanners is an important, unbiased tool for that observation.

      A better solution would be for the police to adopt the digital radios, but then rebroadcast their transmissions on the ex

    • Doesn't he use a police scanner? Actually, I think of super heros do that.

  • Why is this news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:17AM (#38963533)

    This has happened in hundreds of jurisdictions, and its been going on for a dozen years. Some jurisdictions only encrypt special tactical frequencies used for emergencies, but most realize that as soon as they did that they needed the decryption capable radios for every officer and car any way, and there was not much saving leaving regular channels unencrypted. They bought the radios, why not use them.

    Not having reporters and wanna-be-cops show up at every incident was sort of a side benefit in their eyes.

    Why the press would expect to be "loaned" a radio is beyond me. The press never "loans" their confidential sources to the police.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dougmc (70836)

      The press never "loans" their confidential sources to the police.

      What does that even mean?

      Are you saying that the press never shares information with the police? I find that to be incredibly unlikely. Are you saying that they have "confidential" information they don't share with the police? Possibly, but don't you have confidential information you don't share with the police? (Such as the ounce of weed you keep hidden behind the plates? Or the details of the red light you ran through the other day?)

      I'm sort of surprised that the police are so willing to be accommoda

      • Re:Why is this news? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:38AM (#38963663)

        I'm sort of surprised that the police are so willing to be accommodating here too

        The reason they don't care is that they already use cell phones for any sensitive communications, as well as any communications that might not look good in a newspaper article or court transcript.

        As I mentioned in an earlier Slashdot story on police use of encryption, the most common phrase you hear on the (unencrypted) Motorola Smartnet system around here is "Call me on my cell."

    • by epyT-R (613989) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:37AM (#38963653)

      the cops are supposed to work for the public interest, but they don't. they work for the state's and thus not for us. the media is supposed to keep tabs on the government's activities, but they're really in it for their own personal gain and glory these days. I think if public money gets pumped into it, it should be accountable to the public should individuals take an interest. in this era of standing up for your rights = terrorist, locking up the radio broadcasts is just one more step towards an opaque state that can do whatever it wants.

      • Ok, I'm usually all for governmental transparency, but really? You expect police tactical communications to be public? Do you expect military comms to be in the clear as well, for the sake of transparency?

        Record them, and publish them a week or so after the fact for transparency, but real-time police comms need to be secured so they can actually do their job.

  • What is key management like on these civilian encrypted radio systems? Can a single stolen (or hacked) key decrypt transmissions indefinitely? Do they regularly replace the keys? How do they securely update keys across hundreds of radios in the field?

    • by HBI (604924)

      It sucks donkey balls, is what it does. Essentially, they never update their keys. COMSEC isn't much fun for civilian law enforcement. They don't really get it.

    • by koan (80826)
    • Most likely this is a trunked radio system. Trunk following scanners have been out for years. A trunked radio system is a subscription radio system just like cell phones. Disabling a stolen radio is a simple administration task encrypted or not.

      These are not simplex walkie talkies, but are duplex radios with a control channel.

      • Re:Key management? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by RubberDogBone (851604) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:04AM (#38963775)

        It's not just trunked but P25, with encryption. P25 digital signals can be scanned with a modern higher end scanner specifically designed for P25. Trunktrackers will not cut it. There is regular and encrypted P25. Encrypted P25 cannot be decrypted by the scanners. You'd need 2-way radio that can connect to the radio system as a user on the system and have approval from the agency to allow you to hear decrypted radio traffic.

        Some media and agencies do this, but it's not too common. The radios are rather pricey and leasing them out tends to make the agencies nervous and liable to pull the plug at any moment.

        There are also methods to break the P25 encryption mainly based on sloppy key handling by the agency and ways to take advantage of sloppy practices by the officers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dingram17 (839714)

      Most encrypted (analogue or digital) radio systems have a remote stun/kill feature. When the radio is reported lost it is sent a message that disables it, or the disable code is sent regularly until the radio gives a stun/kill acknowledge. At that point the radio is a brick.

      Queensland Police have been using encrypted P25 radios (not trunked) for some time in Brisbane & the Gold Coast. The media cannot monitor, but neither can tow-truck operators, which improves safety at road crashes. The clear-speech a

  • by Formalin (1945560) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:25AM (#38963575)

    I'm more surprised they aren't using some sort of encryption already.

  • About time. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by westlake (615356) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:29AM (#38963601)

    Scanners are fun.

    Until you are the one dialing 911 --- and fielding calls the next day --- the next week --- from every friend, neighbor and relation who picked up on the response.

    • by type40 (310531)

      I can testify to that. I've the old PD I worked for used unencrypted radios. I'd run someone, and the moment I unkeyed my mic their phone would blowup.
      You try taking a crash report from an already shaken up 16 y/o while everyone she knows is trying to call her. I made the mistake of asking her to turn off her phone till we were done. That backfired, everyone started to call 911 because she wasn't answering her phone.

  • Unfair (Score:4, Insightful)

    by McDrewbie (530348) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:33AM (#38963639)
    Now only criminal organizations with the fund and resources to have a police officer or five on the take will have access to vital information. What is the lowly freelance hoodlum supposed to do?
  • Quid Pro Quo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:33AM (#38963641)

    I'll accept the police having encrypted communications, the moment EVERY COP on duty has video and audio surveillance on their person at all times recorded on person, and rebroadcast to their squad car for preservation without tampering.

    Short of that? No, you can't have encrypted communications.

  • Google APCO-25 decoder.
  • Some basic info (Score:3, Interesting)

    by koan (80826) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:41AM (#38963679)

    Current.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_25 [wikipedia.org]

    And old but informative:
    http://www.fordyce.org/scanning/scanning_info/encrypt.htm [fordyce.org]

    From what I gather cell phone jammers seriously screw with this mode of communication, I think it's a bad idea all around to encrypt radios, not to mention repeater issues and the relatively low number of keys available.

  • by wickerprints (1094741) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:51AM (#38963715)

    Nestled in quiet suburban Pasadena, a small university without a football team is full of hundreds of students who could probably crack the encryption scheme faster than they can finish their CS/EE midterms. That is, if they could be bothered to....

  • by jcr (53032) <[jcr] [at] [mac.com]> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:15AM (#38963829) Journal

    They retain recordings of all the radio traffic and make it public after 24 hours.

    -jcr

    • by ledow (319597)

      So your next-door-neighbour rape-victim who wants to remain completely anonymous because of the intense psychology damage it would do her to have that information be public doesn't get a choice?

      In my country, it's hardly ever been possible to listen in on police radio (encrypted analog radios for decades even, I believe). I'm not sure if it's even legal to listen in, to be honest. And probably for good reason. You have *no* more reason to have that information public than victims and "alleged" criminals

  • by kawabago (551139) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:42AM (#38963959)
    Someone is going to crack the encryption and start selling decoders to all the criminals. So the result will be that only the criminals will know what everyone is doing.
  • by spectrokid (660550) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:24AM (#38964137) Homepage
    Funny this, Europe has been switching to TETRA in droves, and nobody cares. We simply don't have a tradition of listening in on the cops.
  • by WaffleMonster (969671) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:29AM (#38964161)

    My 2cents police radio use is not for point 2 point communications but broadcast communication so that everyone on the team maintains an image of whats going on. Police have always had alternate methods of communicating sensitive information off the radio even if that was only cell phones.

    In this context my concern is not that encrypting broadcast is a bad thing but that encryption will be seen as an excuse for being lazy and not using point to point communication systems to convey operationally sensitive information.

    Even if the encryption were 100% perfect and you had perfect operational security there are "alleged" bad guys routinely being escorted to station in the back seats of these vechicles.

  • by sethstorm (512897) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:05AM (#38964317) Homepage

    The incidental effect of criminals being able to listen in is outweighed by the need to check the overreach of law enforcement.

    Nothing but real-time broadcasts in the clear of all broadcasts is acceptable for accountability to the constituents. A delay would not prevent law enforcement from committing an unlawful action, it would only provide time to cover things up.

    Since they are in the public interest, the only path that preserves accountability and transparency is to leave things in the clear without any delay or interruption.

  • by Plammox (717738) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:06AM (#38964767)
    Drive (2011) [youtube.com]
    Seems quite sensible to me to encrypt police communications.
  • by MurukeshM (1901690) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @08:27AM (#38965287)

    Make a media room at the police station, put one of the police's receivers there, and let the media guys send drones to listen. The drones can call their companies when something of interest happens. The police get their encrypted radio, the media get their live feed, and people who shouldn't be listening might not be able listen (how good is the encryption?).

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson

Working...