Kansas Responders to Choose Public, Private Radio Communication

Chief: "There's no requirement that (emergency traffic) be public unless there's a policy"


 
 

Aly Van Dyke, Topeka Capital-Journal | | Friday, May 11, 2012


TOPEKA, Kan. -- Shawnee County could get a new 911 emergency radio system that allows responders to switch between encrypted and public traffic.

But the only thing that would stop an officer -- or an entire agency -- from blocking radio traffic all the time is a departmental policy, Topeka Police Chief Ron Miller said Thursday.

"There's no requirement that (emergency traffic) be public unless there's a policy," he said. "We (currently) choose to make it public, but many departments encrypt all traffic."

He said he didn't have an opinion yet on whether complete encryption would be in the best interest of the county.

"While I believe that the public does have an interest in listening to some radio communications, there are times when the law enforcement sensitivity outweighs the needs of the public to hear that communication," Miller said. "I see the need for both paths. I think that both capabilities are important and in the public interest."

Shawnee County has been considering for about a year replacing its 15-year-old 911 radio system, which would be used by all law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical responders within the county. The Shawnee County Emergency Communications Management Board was formed to assist in the selection of a provider for the new system, which is expected to cost several millions of dollars.

Both companies bidding for the contract - Motorola and Cassidian - are offering encryptions. Encrypting information converts the data into a format not easily understood by unauthorized people. Translating that information often requires a digital key, making it more difficult for people to hack into systems.

Encrypting communications would effectively block the public and media from hearing emergency scanner traffic.

Miller described encryption as an "important feature" for the new radio system because it is more secure than the department's current means of communicating sensitive information.

Currently, officers who want to share "law enforcement-sensitive information" - such as victim information and specific details of suspects - can use cellphones or other communication paths, he said.

The department has a policy regarding that traffic, he said, and supervisors continually listen to radio traffic, partly to ensure compliance with that policy.

Miller said he wasn't aware of any policy violations.

Should the county decide to allow both secure and public radio traffic, he said, nothing would really change for his department.

Shawnee County Sheriff Herman Jones said Thursday he didn't see encryption being used in everyday operations - only those high-risk or violent situations that present a threat to public safety.

He said he wanted the public and media to know law enforcement considers them partners and doesn't have anything to hide by encrypting its emergency radio system.

"John Q. Public is not the bad guy," Jones said. "The media is not the bad guy. I want to emphasize that."



Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, radio, 9-1-1

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Simulation-Based Assessment Facilitates Learning & Enhances Clinical Judgment

Simulation is an educational tool that can be used to develop and refine clinical skills of the student in a controlled environment before they progress to becoming practicing clinicians.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

REMSA Programs Helps Reduce Hospital Visits

Community paramedic effort goes into service.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

City Official Challenges San Francisco Fire Chief

Ambulance response times among problems noted by city supervisor.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Texas Ambulance Crash

Victoria ambulance collides with civilian vehicle.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Colorado Medics Ditch Pants for Kilts

“Real men do wear kilts.”
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

CO Leak at Illinois School

Girard incident sends over 130 to hospitals.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Hands On September 2014

Who gets thumbs up this month?
More >


Multimedia Thumb

NYC Sept. 11 Anniversary

View images from the ceremony at Ground Zero.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >