Omaha area law enforcement encrypting police radio traffic
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Starting Monday, local law enforcement will be encrypting their police radios.
“All agencies will be fully encrypted by March 1,” Omaha Police said in a news release Monday.
OPD said its five precincts would be upgrading the digital dispatch radios in the five precincts sometime Monday. OPD will then rebroadcast unedited radio audio via Broadcastify on a 15-minute delay.
While the upgrade to law enforcement radios will mean live scanner traffic isn’t available to the public at large, 6 News WOWT and other qualified local media outlets will continue to have access to real-time radio transmissions in order to ensure transparency and quickly provide the public with information about any safety concerns.
“The purpose of police radio dispatch encryption is twofold; increased safety for law enforcement personnel and the continued pursuit of public safety by preventing access to live police radio transmissions by criminals,” the OPD release states.
Council Bluffs Police confirmed on a Monday afternoon social media post that they had made that change at about 2 p.m., promising to post a link to their Broadcastify channel when it becomes available.
“Encryption will prevent the personal information of persons contacted by officers from being transmitted in the clear to the public,” CBPD said in a news release after the update. “Unencrypted radio systems allow this information to be gained and used for illicit purposes.”
The Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office was also expected to make the upgrade on Monday.
Other Douglas County law enforcement agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office, will make the move on Tuesday. Delays from some agencies could be as much as 25-30 minutes, depending on the jurisdiction.
Sarpy County law enforcement agencies already made this change, moving to encryption earlier this year.
OPD has no policy on radio transmissions being stopped or altered at any time,” the release states.
Ahead of their final decision to move to encryption, Omaha Police officials met with local media representatives, including newsroom managers from 6 News, to hear concerns about the upgrade.
OPD leadership said the new technology — deployed in many cities across the country — will protect officers and make it harder for criminals to get away with their crimes.
Read OPD’s full statement
“The Omaha Police Department, along with other law enforcement agencies in the metro area, are in the process of moving to full digital radio encryption. The OPD’s five precinct dispatch channels will become encrypted on Monday, February 27th. Council Bluffs Police Department and Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office dispatch will become encrypted at the same time. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and all other Douglas County law enforcement dispatching will move to full encryption on Tuesday, February 28th. Agencies in Sarpy County have previously moved to encrypted channels. All agencies will be fully encrypted by March 1st.
The purpose of police radio dispatch encryption is twofold; increased safety for law enforcement personnel and the continued pursuit of public safety by preventing access to live police radio transmissions by criminals.
We all acknowledge the importance of radio audio for the public and local media. The OPD primary dispatch channels will be rebroadcast unedited on a 15 minute delay. The delayed radio audio will be available to the public via Broadcastify, an online live audio platform. Other law enforcement agencies will rebroadcast on a 25-30 minute delay depending on jurisdiction. The OPD has no policy on radio transmissions being stopped or altered at any time.
The OPD has elected to provide certain qualified media outlets in the Omaha market with real time radio transmissions to ensure continued transparency, accountability, and partnership in providing verified, timely access to public safety information.”
Read CBPD’s full statement
“The Council Bluffs Police Department, along with other departments in the Pottawattamie, Douglas, and Sarpy County area has moved to full digital encryption of our radio system. Full encryption of our radio system started at about 2 PM on 2/27/23.
The Council Bluffs Police Department, in conjunction with our dispatch center from Pottawattamie County, are switching to encryption for several reasons. Encrypted transmission will prevent criminal elements from knowing when and where officers are being dispatched to, enhancing the safety of officers and citizens involved in the incident. Encryption will prevent the personal information of persons contacted by officers from being transmitted in the clear to the public. Unencrypted radio systems allow this information to be gained and used for illicit purposes.
The Council Bluffs Police Department understands that our radio traffic is used by both the media and citizens for legal purposes. In order to maintain this transparency, our radio traffic on our primary (dispatch) channel will be made available with a 30-minute delay. The audio stream will be made available through Broadcastify and will be unedited and raw. A link to the streaming link will be available on the Council Bluffs Police Website as soon as it is received from Pottawattamie County (anticipated 2/27 or 2/28/23). The website is https://www.councilbluffs-ia.gov/319/Police-Department
Information channels where warrant, missing person, and driver’s license information is transmitted will not be available to protect the individuals personal information.
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