News

Palo Alto opts to keep police radios encrypted

Despite concerns about lack of transparency, City Council votes to retain contentious policy

By a 6-1 vote, the Palo Alto City Council voted to retain encrypted police radio communications at its meeting on April 4, 2022. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

Facing resistance from the Palo Alto Police Department, the City Council reluctantly agreed early Tuesday morning to keep police radio communication encrypted and inaccessible to the media and the public.

During a long discussion that stretched well past midnight, council members repeatedly acknowledged that police Chief Robert Jonsen's abrupt move in January 2021 to encrypt radio communications conflicts with the public's right to know about what's happening in the community and hinders the media's ability to cover breaking news. They also largely supported a bill proposed by state Sen. Josh Becker that would require law enforcement agencies to make radio communications accessible while protecting personally identifiable information.

But by the end of the debate, only council member Greer Stone favored returning the department's radio to an unencrypted channel while also developing policies and practices to prevent the police from broadcasting personal information, as required by a recent directive by the state Department of Justice. While most of his colleagues shared his sentiment about the declining transparency in the department, they opted to keep the policy in place out of concern that making the switch to unencrypted radio would make it more difficult for the city to communicate with other law enforcement during incidents involving mutual aid.

Instead, council members pinned their hopes for restoring transparency in the Police Department on an unproven tool: an online map that would give near real-time information about police incidents. City Manager Ed Shikada and Jonsen said they will work with the police unions to refine the tool, even as they warned that officers within the department are concerned that providing the specific locations of incidents to the public in real time would create safety issues.

Like most other jurisdictions in Santa Clara County, Palo Alto adopted encryption in response to an October 2020 memo from the state Department of Justice, which directed all law enforcement agencies to take steps to protect personal identifiable information such as Social Security numbers and criminal records.

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The memo gave law enforcement agencies two options for compliance: encrypt all radio communications or adopt policies that protect personal identifiable information while keeping all other radio communications unencrypted. In response, the California Highway Patrol adopted a policy of not transmitting the name of an individual in conjunction with other personal identifiable information over its unencrypted radio. If that addition is necessary, a state trooper transmits it using a computer in their vehicle or through other means.

Palo Alto abruptly switched to full encryption and in doing so took away the ability of the media and other members of the public to monitor police activities through scanners — a practice that has been central to coverage of breaking news for at least 70 years.

Stone argued that Jonsen's recommendation to retain the encryption policy is "unacceptable."

"I think it's absolutely critical that we're trying to restore that faith in police, especially given such a large breakdown in trust and faith in law enforcement institutions across the country in the last several years," he said. "I think this issue is far more important than ever before and really does require transparency.

Stone was one of several council members, along with Mayor Pat Burt and council member Tom DuBois, who have expressed reservations over the past year about the city's move to encrypted radio. On Monday, however, both Burt and DuBois declined to follow Stone's lead and instead favored exploring other technological solutions that would allow the media to stay informed about police activities.

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The most promising solution, they argued, is an online map that the city unveiled last year, which gives basic information about police incidents. Because the map doesn't describe the incidents or display them until after they occur, it has been characterized as functionally useless for reporters trying to cover news by two newspaper publishers who testified in front of the council Monday, including the Palo Alto Weekly's Bill Johnson. In addition, the map offers only approximate locations of the incidents, making it all but impossible for the media to report with accuracy.

Most council members agreed that if the map tool were improved so that it could provide nearly real-time information as well as more exact location information, it could be an effective alternative to radio communications.

Local media publishers, meanwhile, pressed the council to restore unencrypted radio communications. Johnson, CEO of Embarcadero Media, which publishes the Palo Alto Weekly, and Dave Price, publisher of Palo Alto Daily Post, both described the critical role that listening to the police scanner plays in the news-gathering process.

Johnson said one of the chief benefits of having journalists listen in on police radio communications is that it allows them to quell rumors that are spreading on social media and prevent unnecessary panic. He cited one incident in 2018 in which Palo Alto High School was locked down because someone called the police to report a planned shooting — an incident that was later deemed to be a hoax. Another high-profile incident occurred in 2019, when a suspected bank robber entered and ran through Paly campus before being captured by the police.

In both cases, parents of students and other residents relied on Palo Alto Online to learn what was happening.

"We're able to provide that after having vetted that information and having some of the benefit of having listened to the police radio," Johnson said. "That's an example of a public service being performed not for use later in the newspaper but for the immediate goal of quelling rumors, making sure real-time information is getting to people and you don't have anxiety, panic where it's not needed in the community."

Price emphasized the value that real-time radio communications play in covering breaking news such as floods and other severe weather events. Reporters monitor the scanner to learn where accidents are occurring and then use the information to get to the scene and report on the conditions. And during major crimes, it's important for a reporter to get to the incident so that they can talk to witnesses, something that cannot be done if they have to wait until the police put out a press release to learn about breaking news.

Price called the city's move toward encryption a "First Amendment issue."

"This is an example of something that traditionally has been available to the public since the late 1940s and now is being taken away," Price said. "It's a great concern."

The two publishers pushed back against arguments that Jonsen had articulated in a recent memo suggesting that switching away from encryption is technically infeasible. Price noted that two neighboring jurisdictions that Palo Alto regularly interacts with — Menlo Park and East Palo Alto — both use unencrypted radio communications.

Though Jonsen has repeatedly opposed getting away from encryption, he acknowledged on Monday that the department has a few other alternatives. These include switching to the CHP model or following the lead of Roseville, which broadcasts all personal identifiable information on an encrypted channel while providing basic information about police activity on the unencrypted one. This, however, would require the city to have a dedicated dispatcher broadcasting on the unencrypted channel.

"We still have an unencrypted channel available to us," Jonsen said. "The Roseville model is a possibility. We probably have to do an impact analysis on how to do that with the resources we have, but we could do that."

A major concern for both Jonsen and the council is interoperability. Palo Alto is a member of the Silicon Valley Regional Interoperability Authority, a regional agency that is responsible for coordinating communication between law enforcement agencies throughout the county. On March 31, agency Executive Director Eric Nickel issued a memo warning that if Palo Alto were to switch to unencrypted radios, it would set up a "demanding situation for dispatchers, field personnel, and contact compliance." Specifically, it would require Palo Alto responders and dispatchers to take the extra step of switching to encrypted mode before they are patched into an encrypted "talkgroup" with other agencies.

Given the concerns about interoperability, DuBois said he favors the online map option rather than a return to unencrypted radios.

"I think we need to change the delay to not when it's over but when it's in progress," DuBois said. "I think we need to show the precise location."

Burt also favored an improved streaming service, though he was open to delaying the information by up to 15 minutes after police expressed reservations about revealing the information in real time. Assistant Chief Andrew Binder said that when the city was putting the online map together, officers expressed reservations about their movements being "more accessible and more easily tracked" on an online map than over previously unencrypted radio.

Though Burt had acknowledged the inherent tension between the DOJ directive and the First Amendment right to a free press, he ultimately refrained from specifying how much delay should be allowed before an event is posted on the map, leaving the issue for the Police Department to decide in consultation with its union.

The decision rankled Price, who suggested that the tool proposed by the council would be useless if the information is delayed. Several council members also suggested that the city should be considering the needs of the map's users — and not just the police union — as it develops the tool.

"If it doesn't meet their needs, then we haven't fulfilled the transparency part of it and that's the whole point," council member Eric Filseth said.

The council voted 6-1, with Stone dissenting, to retain encryption.

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Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

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Palo Alto opts to keep police radios encrypted

Despite concerns about lack of transparency, City Council votes to retain contentious policy

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Apr 5, 2022, 2:01 am

Facing resistance from the Palo Alto Police Department, the City Council reluctantly agreed early Tuesday morning to keep police radio communication encrypted and inaccessible to the media and the public.

During a long discussion that stretched well past midnight, council members repeatedly acknowledged that police Chief Robert Jonsen's abrupt move in January 2021 to encrypt radio communications conflicts with the public's right to know about what's happening in the community and hinders the media's ability to cover breaking news. They also largely supported a bill proposed by state Sen. Josh Becker that would require law enforcement agencies to make radio communications accessible while protecting personally identifiable information.

But by the end of the debate, only council member Greer Stone favored returning the department's radio to an unencrypted channel while also developing policies and practices to prevent the police from broadcasting personal information, as required by a recent directive by the state Department of Justice. While most of his colleagues shared his sentiment about the declining transparency in the department, they opted to keep the policy in place out of concern that making the switch to unencrypted radio would make it more difficult for the city to communicate with other law enforcement during incidents involving mutual aid.

Instead, council members pinned their hopes for restoring transparency in the Police Department on an unproven tool: an online map that would give near real-time information about police incidents. City Manager Ed Shikada and Jonsen said they will work with the police unions to refine the tool, even as they warned that officers within the department are concerned that providing the specific locations of incidents to the public in real time would create safety issues.

Like most other jurisdictions in Santa Clara County, Palo Alto adopted encryption in response to an October 2020 memo from the state Department of Justice, which directed all law enforcement agencies to take steps to protect personal identifiable information such as Social Security numbers and criminal records.

The memo gave law enforcement agencies two options for compliance: encrypt all radio communications or adopt policies that protect personal identifiable information while keeping all other radio communications unencrypted. In response, the California Highway Patrol adopted a policy of not transmitting the name of an individual in conjunction with other personal identifiable information over its unencrypted radio. If that addition is necessary, a state trooper transmits it using a computer in their vehicle or through other means.

Palo Alto abruptly switched to full encryption and in doing so took away the ability of the media and other members of the public to monitor police activities through scanners — a practice that has been central to coverage of breaking news for at least 70 years.

Stone argued that Jonsen's recommendation to retain the encryption policy is "unacceptable."

"I think it's absolutely critical that we're trying to restore that faith in police, especially given such a large breakdown in trust and faith in law enforcement institutions across the country in the last several years," he said. "I think this issue is far more important than ever before and really does require transparency.

Stone was one of several council members, along with Mayor Pat Burt and council member Tom DuBois, who have expressed reservations over the past year about the city's move to encrypted radio. On Monday, however, both Burt and DuBois declined to follow Stone's lead and instead favored exploring other technological solutions that would allow the media to stay informed about police activities.

The most promising solution, they argued, is an online map that the city unveiled last year, which gives basic information about police incidents. Because the map doesn't describe the incidents or display them until after they occur, it has been characterized as functionally useless for reporters trying to cover news by two newspaper publishers who testified in front of the council Monday, including the Palo Alto Weekly's Bill Johnson. In addition, the map offers only approximate locations of the incidents, making it all but impossible for the media to report with accuracy.

Most council members agreed that if the map tool were improved so that it could provide nearly real-time information as well as more exact location information, it could be an effective alternative to radio communications.

Local media publishers, meanwhile, pressed the council to restore unencrypted radio communications. Johnson, CEO of Embarcadero Media, which publishes the Palo Alto Weekly, and Dave Price, publisher of Palo Alto Daily Post, both described the critical role that listening to the police scanner plays in the news-gathering process.

Johnson said one of the chief benefits of having journalists listen in on police radio communications is that it allows them to quell rumors that are spreading on social media and prevent unnecessary panic. He cited one incident in 2018 in which Palo Alto High School was locked down because someone called the police to report a planned shooting — an incident that was later deemed to be a hoax. Another high-profile incident occurred in 2019, when a suspected bank robber entered and ran through Paly campus before being captured by the police.

In both cases, parents of students and other residents relied on Palo Alto Online to learn what was happening.

"We're able to provide that after having vetted that information and having some of the benefit of having listened to the police radio," Johnson said. "That's an example of a public service being performed not for use later in the newspaper but for the immediate goal of quelling rumors, making sure real-time information is getting to people and you don't have anxiety, panic where it's not needed in the community."

Price emphasized the value that real-time radio communications play in covering breaking news such as floods and other severe weather events. Reporters monitor the scanner to learn where accidents are occurring and then use the information to get to the scene and report on the conditions. And during major crimes, it's important for a reporter to get to the incident so that they can talk to witnesses, something that cannot be done if they have to wait until the police put out a press release to learn about breaking news.

Price called the city's move toward encryption a "First Amendment issue."

"This is an example of something that traditionally has been available to the public since the late 1940s and now is being taken away," Price said. "It's a great concern."

The two publishers pushed back against arguments that Jonsen had articulated in a recent memo suggesting that switching away from encryption is technically infeasible. Price noted that two neighboring jurisdictions that Palo Alto regularly interacts with — Menlo Park and East Palo Alto — both use unencrypted radio communications.

Though Jonsen has repeatedly opposed getting away from encryption, he acknowledged on Monday that the department has a few other alternatives. These include switching to the CHP model or following the lead of Roseville, which broadcasts all personal identifiable information on an encrypted channel while providing basic information about police activity on the unencrypted one. This, however, would require the city to have a dedicated dispatcher broadcasting on the unencrypted channel.

"We still have an unencrypted channel available to us," Jonsen said. "The Roseville model is a possibility. We probably have to do an impact analysis on how to do that with the resources we have, but we could do that."

A major concern for both Jonsen and the council is interoperability. Palo Alto is a member of the Silicon Valley Regional Interoperability Authority, a regional agency that is responsible for coordinating communication between law enforcement agencies throughout the county. On March 31, agency Executive Director Eric Nickel issued a memo warning that if Palo Alto were to switch to unencrypted radios, it would set up a "demanding situation for dispatchers, field personnel, and contact compliance." Specifically, it would require Palo Alto responders and dispatchers to take the extra step of switching to encrypted mode before they are patched into an encrypted "talkgroup" with other agencies.

Given the concerns about interoperability, DuBois said he favors the online map option rather than a return to unencrypted radios.

"I think we need to change the delay to not when it's over but when it's in progress," DuBois said. "I think we need to show the precise location."

Burt also favored an improved streaming service, though he was open to delaying the information by up to 15 minutes after police expressed reservations about revealing the information in real time. Assistant Chief Andrew Binder said that when the city was putting the online map together, officers expressed reservations about their movements being "more accessible and more easily tracked" on an online map than over previously unencrypted radio.

Though Burt had acknowledged the inherent tension between the DOJ directive and the First Amendment right to a free press, he ultimately refrained from specifying how much delay should be allowed before an event is posted on the map, leaving the issue for the Police Department to decide in consultation with its union.

The decision rankled Price, who suggested that the tool proposed by the council would be useless if the information is delayed. Several council members also suggested that the city should be considering the needs of the map's users — and not just the police union — as it develops the tool.

"If it doesn't meet their needs, then we haven't fulfilled the transparency part of it and that's the whole point," council member Eric Filseth said.

The council voted 6-1, with Stone dissenting, to retain encryption.

Comments

felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2022 at 8:30 am
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 8:30 am

Council Member Stone was the only one who got it right by supporting de-encryption The rest of the Council got played by the PAPD and police union, buying into a 2.0 version of the lame police map that both Price and Johnson said that even if improved, is inadequte to solve encrption issues. 6 Council Members chose to ignore them and the public interest.

Dir. Nickel's letter was PAPD's "April Surprise", given he could have spoken up long ago, such as when the City asked the DOJ if the City could un-encrypt. He may have inflated his concerns as a new form of “mutual aid” to the PAPD.

We learned that the police union overrides City Council's decisions at will. That's big news and seriously frightening in a democracy. Is this legal? Did Council Members know this was going on? It should stop now, but I doubt it will. The City Attorney and Council will likely look the other way and the Police Union will continue to dominate behind the scenes.

We better hope Senator Becker's Bill succeeds and should all support it as is, but it may not - the police Unions will be opposing it big time with big money.

The only good news is Chief Jonsen is leaving. The only bad news is what we are left with.


Local Resident
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 5, 2022 at 8:52 am
Local Resident, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 8:52 am

Thank you Council Member Greer Stone for attempting to protect our First Amendment rights and keep unencrypted police communication! Council Member Burt precisely identified that it was the Police Union restricting real-time reporting. Unfortunately, he then watered down his amendment to be "near real-time" instead of "as close to real-time as technically feasible". We should not let the police union supported by the city manager have a say in how much of our first amendment rights we get to keep.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2022 at 9:41 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 9:41 am

Echoing Felix's point about the lameness of the new police tool. When I tried it out I knew a friend's car had been vandalized, looked up her address and was surprised to see her area was covered with crime balloons but when you went to expand one balloon, the address disappeared making the whole thing useless on a granular level.

I wonder how many CC members have actually used it.

High praise to Mr. Price and Mr. Johnson and whoever invited them to speak. I can't believe the CC ignored the safety issues of encryption that Mr. Price captured so well: Say a storm knocks out power during a storm and the wires are hissing in the street. Shouldn't we be warned immediately of that danger??

Of course, just as we should be warned about what's happening in our neighborhoods and what those 6 cop cars with flashing lights when it's happening!

Good for Mr Stone and shame on the others, esp. Mr. Shikada who's let PAPD get away with so much and cost the city so much.


jlanders
Registered user
Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2022 at 10:40 am
jlanders, Barron Park
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 10:40 am

Ultimately, and wisely, the council made the right decision. Chief Jonsen, council and staff did a terrific job with a complex technical and legal topic. Great to see the media invited and happy they were allowed to make their pitch and provide their perspective.

After everyone had the opportunity to speak, council concluded that the model for information dissemination from the PAPD should more closely follow the CHP's publicly available CAD model (https://cad.chp.ca.gov) with near real-time updates available online rather than CHP's radio model that hides personal information over dispatch channels. Those old enough to remember know that CHP's online traffic reporting democratized traffic and accident reporting on California's highways and freeways and gave the information directly to the public rather than private, profit motivated news services.

While the Post and Weekly are no doubt disappointed, spending limited public safety dollars on restoring PAPD's traffic and investigations teams is much more important than spending money broadcasting radio calls for the local press. Now's the time to take advantage of the technology available in PAPD's new CAD and digital radio system. Council and our public safety departments should use this and the capabilities of our new public safety building to improve the operational efficiency of our dispatch operations, while saving money and keeping the public informed.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2022 at 11:39 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 11:39 am

It's not just a matter of a free press; it's a matter of public safety. The public should be advised to what areas to avoid, what's happening on their blocks, etc.

I still want to know why the street across from me was blocked off for hours in the late evening by several police cars with flashing lights right in front of my house and another several blocks down. You could see lights coming on in houses for blocks wondering what was happening. Was the president visiting? Martians?

I think we have way too little transparency in our government which allows the city to waste lots of money on their pet issues -- like keeping violent cops on staff while WE pay out lots of money in lawsuits, like hiring a senior CPAU staffer to lobby US to continue the practice of stealing from us via illegal overcharges when they could/should be working on a CLEAN business tax, like their Casti nonsense, like the "medical/retail" Town & Country fiasco.

I went to bed last night feeling really good about last night's CC meeting where Price, Johnson and so many articulate residents spoke and finally dealt with substantive issues.

Silly me. Lots of disappointed emails circulating this morning.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Apr 5, 2022 at 12:36 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 12:36 pm

@jlanders: so what if de-encryption is technically and legally complicated? Technical difficultes are surmountable. If Roseville can do it, so can the birthplace of Silicon Valley. As for legal complications, sometimes we need to get out of our own way. Our nation has been turned upside down and inside out b/c of issues that have roots in the lack of transparency and the strength of police unions. I think PACC missed an opportunity last night.

Thank you to Greer Stone for his lone vote. That he teaches history is proving to be a major asset to this community.

Thanks, too, to editors Price and Johnson. If they are disappointed, they are in good company. Ditto if they are worried.

Note to Johnson: had you reinstated the LIKE button you would see that many of your readers are aligned with you and Dave Price on this issue. Bring it back!


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2022 at 12:57 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 12:57 pm

A reliable local newspaper with timely news about crime is essential in times of rumor and perceived danger. As written in the article, when parents got texts from their students at school with news of problems, parents need to have a source of finding out what is going on from a reliable source, oftentimes ahead of what the school sends out which can be delayed due to having to act defensively themselves.

Without a reliable source of information, the public turns to Nextdoor, that source of reliable rumor mongering also known as eye witness accounts.

Should we be reduced to social media to get our information? Or do we wait for a Press Release which may or may not come for 48 hours?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2022 at 1:06 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 1:06 pm

Echoing ALL of Annette's excellent points.

Also note that not only has Roseville managed to do what PAPD claims is hard/impossible but so has nearby Menlo Park whose system Dave Price invited the City Council to check out before voting.

The same myopia about Menlo Park's system extends to how neighboring cities have managed to revitalize their economies and downtowns while PA continues to plead poverty because it's "easier" to retain more high-priced consultants to conduct questionable polls, studies, write reports etc. than to act.


Barron Parker Too
Registered user
Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2022 at 1:43 pm
Barron Parker Too, Barron Park
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 1:43 pm

Reporter Sheyner again editorializes, saying that the City Council *reluctantly* agreed with the police that police communications should be encrypted. Reluctantly? "Reluctantly" means that they would have preferred not to do it, but were forced by other exigencies.

That simply isn't true. All members of the City Council except for Stone judged that the best policy going forward, for many positive reasons, was to follow the advice of the police that their communications, like those of other Bay Area police departments, remain encrypted.

For an accurate summary of the City Council decision and the reasons for it, see the comments of @jlanders above.


AnnetteG
Registered user
Midtown
on Apr 5, 2022 at 2:02 pm
AnnetteG, Midtown
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 2:02 pm

Kudos to CM Stone. I am not in favor of the suggested online map. This is a Rube Goldberg solution, and the city is not capable of updating any site in a timely manner.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2022 at 3:42 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 3:42 pm

" This is a Rube Goldberg solution, and the city is not capable of updating any site in a timely manner."

Emphasis om ANY.

Current complaints abound re the inability of the city's contractor paid to manage and/or update the Residential Permits system working and the city's inability to manage them.

See also the highly problematic power outage updates, their much-heralded "green" traffic alerts/maps of construction work to help us save time, avoid backups and cut pollution -- that one had 3 beta tests before it vanished -- , the costly Solar Permitting program where its long failure wasn't even noticed by "management" until the PAW expose' and which cost residents and contractors big bucks, ...

I don't want to hear about how the city can't afford to fix the PAPD system when it's wasting BIG BUCKS on the Fiber Optics System when PA provides such stellar and cost-effective services.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2022 at 3:50 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 3:50 pm

We have a nice natural experiment here - some agencies have had encryption in place for months. Was there any change in those agencies performance i.e. did they catch more criminals while being encrypted? If not, then why encrypt?

Over the years I have counseled a lot of young people considering public safety careers.

In general (but not always) those wanting to be in control become police officers and those wishing to take care of others become firefighters.

That selection bias shapes the culture of both police departments and fire departments.

I have never seen a firefighter or fire department that was not PROUD of the public display of their fire calls.

Web Link

Allowing the police to strengthen their culture of control and secrecy is a dangerous and unnecessary step.


White Senior fears Palo Alto Police
Registered user
Professorville
on Apr 5, 2022 at 5:00 pm
White Senior fears Palo Alto Police, Professorville
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 5:00 pm

Encryption helps police cover up their crimes and misdemeanors. Taxpayers continue to fund payments to mistreated citizens.


jlanders
Registered user
Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2022 at 7:46 pm
jlanders, Barron Park
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 7:46 pm

Annette, you can listen to Roseville PD online. To me, it sounds like that department uses a separate "records channel" to handle personal information requests from officers. Chief Jonsen and the staff report provided to council explained why they didn't think this was a safe option for PAPD. Keep in mind that Roseville's radio system is exclusive to Roseville. They don't have a joint powers authority with other agencies and don't have other police departments dispatching on their radio system. Their records channel is fully encrypted and they're not using the "CHP model" for protecting personal data on an unencrypted channel. This setup works for Roseville. But, unfortunately, it's no template for PAPD and the Santa Clara County radio system.

The question that Dave Price and Bill Johnston were unable to answer last night was simple. Suppose PAPD wanted to move to the "CHP model" of protecting personal information. Where would PAPD broadcast police radio traffic? Palo Alto's police, file and utilities departments use Santa Clara County's radio system. But, Palo Alto is a distant 4th in radio users and financial support under the SVRIA joint powers authority. San Jose, Santa Clara County government and the VTA are multiple times bigger. Without support from the SVRIA’s other members, administration and Director Nickel, an open PAPD dispatch channel doesn't seem possible. So, where does PAPD broadcast, and how do they maintain operational interoperability with Los Altos and Mountain View where they share CAD and confidential records data?

Agree with you and others about transparency. So did Chief Jonsen, and others at last night's meeting. Let's work on improving PAPD's online portal. According to Palo Alto's IT Department, it's only a few weeks worth of effort. If you've got a better, workable plan let's hear it!


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2022 at 8:54 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 8:54 pm

We have had decades of open police radio transmissions.

Please document how anyone has been harmed by that.

Allowing the police to operate in secret means that we will have a secret police - is that what the citizens want?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2022 at 8:55 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 8:55 pm

@jlanders, correct me if I'm wrong but weren't we able to view PAPD traffic online, too? I remember having a browser tab linking to PAPD reports when there was extraordinary police activity / sirens etc. I don't remember audio reports but vaguely remember the reports were on Twitter but I could be wrong on that.


Duveneck neighbor
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 7, 2022 at 10:41 pm
Duveneck neighbor, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Apr 7, 2022 at 10:41 pm

Disagree vehemently with the Council vote.

You all are not getting it. We the voters want transparency in policing. We want an end to encrypted communications. We want an end to bad behaviors hidden by Human Resources obfuscation, and hidden by college-fraternity-like, circle-the-wagons obfuscation by the Police Union. We want an end to our tax dollars being used to pay off plaintiffs who have been harmed through the bad behaviors of individual officers, aided and abetted by the code of silence and non-transparent obfuscations from the City Manager, City Attorney, Chief of Police, and Police Union.

We want an end to the status quo.

We can have quality police and policing, AND safety for our officers who are sworn to serve and protect us -- and who actually put the public first, rather than last.

But, we can't have all that, if Council will continue to do the wrong thing.

This issue is my highest priority. All six who voted in favor of encryption, will no longer get my vote.


ALB
Registered user
College Terrace
on Apr 9, 2022 at 1:30 pm
ALB, College Terrace
Registered user
on Apr 9, 2022 at 1:30 pm

Sadly the majority of the CC caved and did not support freedom of the press, transparency and safety. Only CC member Greer Stone saw through the self-centered pitch by Chief Jonsen who desperately sought a political win as he is running for sheriff for Santa Clara County. He needs the backing of the police unions. Shikada placed the item late on the agenda. This tedious presentation by both the CP and CM successfully trammeled the CC. This CC did not integrate the excellent presentations by publishers Bill Johnson and Dave Price. Many in the community
are beyond nonplussed we are shocked at this decision. Encryption does not protect the residents. It only benefits police unions who certainly do not embrace transparency.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 9, 2022 at 1:51 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Apr 9, 2022 at 1:51 pm

The SJ Mercury just endorsed Chief Jonsen for county sheriff. I urged them to do thair homework and check out the comments by the publishers of PA Online and the PA Daily Post and PA residents.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Apr 9, 2022 at 8:49 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Apr 9, 2022 at 8:49 pm

@Online Name - that is disturbing news about the endorsement. How can a paper be bamboozled like that and endorse a candidate who promotes encryption over transparency?


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2022 at 2:29 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Apr 24, 2022 at 2:29 pm

I can't possibly see how encryption has anything to do with "1st Amendment Rights"!!! I don't have a 1st Amendment right to snoop on YOUR conversation if I don't want you to unless I say it's OK or a court says it's OK.

Police radio is encrypted so crooks (like drug dealers or car thieves) can't benefit from knowing what police are concentrating on and where the police are (and especially are not). Open channel police band scanners used to be illegal, but I don't know if they are anymore. Anyway, you can buy them very easily. It also was illegal to prevent unscrupulous towing services and ambulance chasing lawyers to get to accident scenes first to profit from other people's misery.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Apr 24, 2022 at 3:22 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Apr 24, 2022 at 3:22 pm

" I don't have a 1st Amendment right to snoop on YOUR conversation if I don't want you to unless I say it's OK or a court says it's OK."

The difference is that police conversations are not conversations between private individual but conversations by people who work for the public and who should be accountable to the public who pays them and who trusts them to protect our communities.


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2022 at 5:39 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2022 at 5:39 pm

You miss my point. Just what the heck does "protecting 1st Amendment rights" have to do with police encryption? It's their speech, not yours!!! Huh? If you encrypt your speech, can the police spy on you too? This is a double-sided sword.. Find some other legal reason. There are lots of other legal reasons for people who understand The Law. Shee. Why do I waste my time on people like you? Ta ta!


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Apr 25, 2022 at 5:45 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2022 at 5:45 pm

The difference is that police conversations are not conversations between private individual but conversations by people who work for the public and who should be accountable to the public who pays them and who trusts them to protect our communities.


Avery Stone
Registered user
another community
on Apr 26, 2022 at 8:57 am
Avery Stone, another community
Registered user
on Apr 26, 2022 at 8:57 am

A compromise to this issue might be in order.

How about maintaining non-encrypted general police communications for public access while maintaining a private encrypted channel for sensitive police matters involving active criminal pursuits and investigations?


staying home
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Apr 26, 2022 at 10:32 am
staying home, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Apr 26, 2022 at 10:32 am

First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I fail to see how the police encrypting their comm's is a first amendment issue. The problem is visibility and accountability. Listening in on police radio was never intended to be a method of allowing the public to keep informed. If the technology existed 50 years ago, you better believe the police would have been encrypting all along.

Other cities have granted encryption licenses to press, it seems like it could work here as well.




Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Apr 26, 2022 at 10:36 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Apr 26, 2022 at 10:36 am

"I fail to see how the police encrypting their comm's is a first amendment issue."

Police encryption is not a First Amendment Issue but rather a public accountability issue.

Our police do not have any constitutional right to privacy in their communications - they are a public entity and serve the public.


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