|(November 30, 2019, 2:40 p.m.) -- LBREPORT.com broke the story in August here and followed-up here. We focus on it editorially now in hopes of constructively averting a needlessly damaging loss of transparency on crime and public safety in L.A. County's second largest city.
The City of Long Beach is quietly moving toward blacking-out long-standing public and press access to LBPD radio communications. Other cities (recently including several southbay cities) just did so and LB will likely follow unless LB City Councilmembers (who set city policy, not Mayor Garcia) protect your current ability to access these communications which has existed for decades.
It's not surprising when government bodies (at various levels and not just in LB) try to control public access to information about their operations (whether in document form/public records or in this case electronic form.) The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press described the police radio issue and its consequences years ago at this link. From LBREPORT.com's inception, we have refused to provide a de facto echo chamber for what City Hall and its favored interests want said; we're independent and do our best to go where the facts lead (regardless of whose toes it steps on.)
In this case, a key fact is that upgrading to digital police radios does NOT require encrypting LBPD channels. All or some digital channels can remain open unless the operator chooses to encrypt them. City Hall justified the cost of upgrading to digital radios based on inter-operability with other agencies, channel capacity and reliability. No one said the switch would provide a pretext to block public access to information that's been publicly accessible for decades.
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Some of LBPD's current analog channels are already encrypted for tactical/SWAT type responses. We have no objection to this. But public and press access to PD responses to shootings, stabbings, robberies, burglaries, vagrant-related crimes and emergency situations can and should remain open. Telling the public to rely on after-the-fact filed reports is much less than the public has now and really isn't an acceptable substitute.
It's true that other parties have put some LBPD police radio channels on the internet, making them accessible to anyone with a smart phone and an internet connection. This doesn't automatically change the analysis. As a threshold matter, we've seen no evidence showing that criminals monitoring LBPD scanner channels on their smart phones have actually created problems for officers and if so, in what circumstances and to what extent. To our knowledge, LBPD brass hasn't raised this issue previously although its current analog radio feeds have been available online for several years. We don't deny this might pose problems but we don't think these should be prematurely assumed without evidence and then used to rationalize a wholesale blackout.
Furthermore, the internet feed isn't instantaneous; it's already delayed by the processing time of the device and the internet connection. In addition, it might be possible to digitally delay the feed a bit further by up to a few minutes. Any workarounds should be the absolute minimum needed, not a pretext for a blanket public blackout.
LBPD hasn't made the switch to digital radios yet, but in August 2019, LBPD Public Information Officer Shaunna Dandoy told LBREPORT.com that LB's Information Technology Dept. was working with city wireless services on how best to implement new technology and no decision had been made on whether to move to encrypted channels or not. (Savvy readers will notice that the PIO didn't deny plans for encryption.) Since then LBREPORT.com has independently learned from other reliable sources that plans are currently headed toward encryption.
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, a number of police agencies locally and nationally are encrypting their police radio channels. In 2012, Pasadena and Burbank residents lost their ability to hear their police agencies' radio channels (coverage here.) More recently, the same thing happened in Denver (coverage here.)
For a chilling, Orwellian example of how Hermosa Beach City Hall (since August 2018 under City Manager Suja Lowenthal) cheerfully portrayed its October 2019 switch to block public access and move to encryption (which may have been planned before Lowenthal's arrival), click here. (For a saddening example of how the Daily Breeze [now part of the media conglomerate that operates the PressTelegram] parroted this action, click here.)
Unless you want to receive similar "news" on LB City Hall's social media channels or on locally parroting outlets, we urge you to take the following action:
And let LBREPORT.com know what response(s) you receive...and we'll follow-up.
It's possible that your Councilmember may not have heard until now about the encryption issue...but there's no excuse for him/her NOT doing anything about it once you've brought it to his/her attention.
Knowledge is power. Let your Councilmember know you're woke...and you expect them to wake up and prevent an impending City Hall blackout of real world crime conditions and responses to it in our city.
Opinions expressed by LBREPORT.com, our contributors and/or our readers are not necessarily those of our advertisers. We welcome our readers' comments/opinions 24/7 via Disqus, Facebook and moderate length letters and longer-form op-ed pieces submitted to us at mail@LBReport.com.
Nov. 30, 8:45 p.m.: Text added noting the absence of data showing that criminals monitoring LBPD radio channels on smart phones has been a problem and if so to what extent and in what circumstances.
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