Denver PD’s plan to encrypt scanner traffic creates controversy

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DENVER - Any day now, the Denver Police Department could encrypt its radio traffic. The plan is causing controversy because some say it limits the free flow of information.

The department has been in the process of encrypting all of its radio traffic -- communication between officers and dispatchers -- for months.

The general public can listen to a lot of that radio traffic on scanners and smartphone apps. Some of that communication, including SWAT and surveillance chatter, is already encrypted.

"It’ll be better for our community. It’ll better for our officers," Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen told FOX31.

He said he's concerned that scanner traffic includes the names, phone numbers and addresses of crime victims and witnesses. Plus, it can include officers' locations and information about where they're going next.

"That creates inherent danger for the officers," Pazen said. "We’ve had critical incidents (in which) critical communications (have) been listened to by the party we’re attempting to resolve peacefully."

But not everyone thinks encrypting the radio traffic is a good idea.

This includes Curt Mann, who spent 32 years as a fire dispatcher and has listened to scanners his entire life.

"It lets you know what’s going on around you and if there are things going on in your neighborhood that you need to be aware of," Mann said. "And secondly...how well the government is doing with the money that you give them."

Mann supports law enforcement blocking the public from listening to sensitive radio chatter, but not day-to-day communications.

"I’m disappointed," Mann said. "They have a duty to allow the citizens to know what they’re doing. I think it’s easier to run a government organization when you can conceal what you’re doing from the people."

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