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Monday, November 21, 2011

More police departments look to tune public out

WASHINGTON — Police departments around the U.S. are working to shield their radio communications from the public as cheap, user-friendly technology has made it easy for anyone to use handheld devices to keep tabs on officers responding to crimes.
The practice of encryption has grown more common from Florida to New York and west to California, with law-enforcement officials saying they want to keep criminals from using officers' internal chatter to evade them. But journalists and neighborhood watchdogs say open communications ensure the public receives information that can be vital to their safety as quickly as possible.
D.C. police moved to join the trend this fall after what Chief Cathy Lanier said were several incidents involving criminals and smartphones. Carjackers operating on Capitol Hill were believed to have been listening to emergency communications because they were only captured once police stopped broadcasting over the radio, she said. And drug dealers at a laundromat fled the building after a sergeant used open airwaves to direct other units there — suggesting, she said, that they too were listening in.

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