Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.

 



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This discussion has been archived.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 @12:17AM (#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 @12:23AM (#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.

  • About time. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by westlake (615356) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:29AM (#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.

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RobbieCrash (834439) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:30AM (#38963607)

    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."

  • by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:32AM (#38963617) Homepage

    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 accommodating here too -- "They bought the radios, why not use them" makes perfect sense here. But the idea that the press doesn't share, why should the police? seems very strange -- as I'm pretty sure the press does share.

  • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by epyT-R (613989) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:32AM (#38963619)

    well fine.. then they don't have to take a penny of public money. they can fund their own privacy like we citizens are apparently expected to do.

  • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by johngaunt (414543) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:32AM (#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.

  • Unfair (Score:4, Insightful)

    by McDrewbie (530348) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:33AM (#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?
  • by epyT-R (613989) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:37AM (#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.

  • by garyebickford (222422) <gar37bic@gmail . c om> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:01AM (#38963763)

    I wouldn't object to a delay, say 15 minutes, before public availability, if the data is streamed directly onto a public access server not controlled by the police force (perhaps a service bureau that acts as a neutral third party). That would meet the public's right to the information, and also the need for the police to not let the bank robbers listen in while the police are saying "you two go around the back, you go up on the roof, and we'll go in the front door on five ... one ... two ... three ... four ... FIVE!".

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:03AM (#38963771)

    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 can not be taken against them. The same thing will happen here with no oversight at all.

    As with all things related to the police, it's a fine line between security and responsibility in preventing abuse. The press option is the closest thing to satisfying both.

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fearofcarpet (654438) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:12AM (#38963813)

    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 criminals. Currently, as they know that their communications are being listened to, they can use codes and give false and misleading information over the radio. For example, even something as simple as radioing to the helicopter telling them where officers are and then sending a text message to the pilot's cell phone with the real positions. And to keep the communications secure, they will have to rotate keys, which adds complexity, and increases the risk of the sort of total chaos of radio communication that ensued after 9/11, when suddenly no one could talk to each other due to incompatible hardware and whatnot.

    Remember when the US military found out that their drones were broadcasting unencrypted video feeds, allowing anyone with a laptop and a TV tuner to see the feeds? (And the CIA had to have had the same problem, though the media didn't report on it.) Because they thought those video feeds were secure, they were inadvertently handing out valuable information such as location, timing, potential targets, tactics, etc. They would have been better off knowing that people were watching those feeds, and even using it to their advantage.

  • by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:16AM (#38963839)

    who the hell modded this flamebait!? It's absolutely spot on, they're supposed to be publicly transparent - including radio comms - since they're paid for with PUBLIC MONEY!

    No they are not meant to be totally transparent. That's a great way to get innocent people killed, and totally destroy the effectiveness of police.

    Being paid by public money doesn't entitle every bank robber, drug dealer, or murderer listen into police comms.

    If the press gets to listen, then everybody gets to listen, because the press can't keep a secret. The big competition becomes which radio station can get it on the air first.

    Use just a tiny bit of common sense before you post.

  • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Z00L00K (682162) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:19AM (#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:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by symbolset (646467) * on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:27AM (#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.

  • by Squiddie (1942230) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:27AM (#38963913)
    Who goes on five? Three is the magic number, my friend.
  • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tqk (413719) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:48AM (#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:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by walshy007 (906710) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:52AM (#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?

  • by nazsco (695026) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:08AM (#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.

  • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EdIII (1114411) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:19AM (#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:4, Insightful)

    by gl4ss (559668) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @02:48AM (#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.

  • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by psiclops (1011105) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:09AM (#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 Gription (1006467) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:34AM (#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.
  • Re:So? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tehcyder (746570) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:13AM (#38964567) Journal
    Coming from the UK, I see no reason for "the media" to be allowed access to police radio anyway. It makes as little sense as allowing them to intercept private citizens' mobile phone calls.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:16AM (#38964577)

    The interceptor needs to be in the cell, needs to have the equipment to intercept the communication (not as easy to get as a police scanner), and needs to know what to pick up. That's many orders of magnitude more secure, even if it's only because of the needle-in-a-haystack effect.

  • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:25AM (#38964617)

    We've had enough UK precedence, thank you.

  • Re:So? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tehcyder (746570) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:37AM (#38964651) Journal

    When I got my first car I used to listen for them deploying speed traps. Scanners were very handy back then.

    Let me guess, it's your fucking constitutional right to evade the law now?

  • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by peawormsworth (1575267) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:42AM (#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.

  • by tehcyder (746570) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:44AM (#38964679) Journal

    The bigger question should be how much personal information with respect to those accused/victims/witnessing crimes is indiscriminately broadcast over police radio.

    No, that is simply a very good argument for encrypting everything and never releasing details of any of it to the public.

    I really don't see why "the media" should have access to confidential police information that Mr X of Y address has been questioned on suspicion of Z if it turns out to be a mistake and he is released without charge later. You only need Z to be "rape" or "possession of child pornography" and Mr X is in serious trouble, even if he is totally innocent.

  • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:09AM (#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...

  • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Plunky (929104) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:17AM (#38965033)

    The reasoning the police give for having privacy is a lot more realistic: to deny criminals the ability to track police actions.

    Except, that reasoning may seem sound, but the people they want to block are not criminals until they have been charged and convicted by a court of law. What they actually want: to deny all people the ability to track police actions.

    Its up to you if you accept that this is proper, but history shows that some amount of oversight is desireable, even necessary.

  • Re:So? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:35AM (#38965323) Homepage Journal

    Coming from the UK, I see no reason for "the media" to be allowed access to police radio anyway.

    Well, that makes sense, given that your government has actually called its monitoring efforts "big brother" and you don't seem to mind it watching you. But reporters depend on the police chatter to know when there is something developing which requires reporting. It's part of the process of freedom and democracy. But since you UK dwellers still think you're more free than us (when your speech isn't even free, you tools) I guess you're happy to grease up and bend over.

  • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @08:06AM (#38965479) Homepage

    'encrypt everything' is a perfectly fine solution

    I dunno. It sounds good in theory but history shows that as soon as you do it people will start thinking of ways to hide the embarrassing stuff in the name of 'security'.

    It's just the way their minds work. Look at how much resistance there currently is to recording police when they're on duty.

    Best to keep as much stuff as possible in plain sight. Not hidden, under control of the privileged few.

  • Re:So? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jbolden (176878) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @08:22AM (#38965571) Homepage

    The police in the course of investigations turn up a lot of material about private individuals that is never made public. There is good reason not to make everything public.

    Besides, I don't see where the police are headed recently. Frankly, police officers have been more responsive to the public and done the best job of balancing various concerns I've seen in decades. I don't see any float in the local police departments towards anything but a higher degree of public responsibility.

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alaffin (585965) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @10:03AM (#38966753) Journal

    (a) If you think any country in the so-called west is a police state, then you need an introduction to a real police state. Don't get me wrong - I'm sure there are rights violations and the police are heavy handed at times. However, that's what happens when you give people authority over others - some become heroes, some do a good job and some are corrupted. However calling the USA or any western country a police state is an insult to those actually living in a police state.

    (b) I didn't say anything about anyone not having a right to listen to police radio. Under my proposed system you could acquire yesterday's police chatter and listen to it to your little heart's content. You can't listen to the live feed, but that's because there are often operational considerations where the safety of law enforcement officers and the general public. Unless you expect the police to stage some kind of coup overnight I don't know if knowing what they are up to right this instant is that important from the viewpoint of protecting one's rights.

"Say yur prayers, yuh flea-pickin' varmint!" -- Yosemite Sam

Working...