By: S.D. Burgoyne
Listening to Phoenix Police radio traffic on a Ham Radio or now, as is more common, with a Smart Phone app is not something many Arizonans, other than perhaps a few “Dooms Day Preppers” hanging out in Thatcher, do in their free time. Personally there are a whole lot of other things I would rather be doing in lovely Arizona 70 degree weather. However last month when the Phoenix Police Department decided that they could and would start encrypting emergency police radio traffic, a few freedom loving, small government Arizonans took notice, me included.
The rapid rise of websites and mobile Apps that stream police radio traffic to thousands of users has in the opinion of the Phoenix Police Dept and many others, changed the rules of the game and presented new challenges to their ability to fight crime. To this, Phoenix Police site a recent and factual spike in people showing up to, sometimes even beating officers to a crime scene. I get it, and I agree that civilians and media showing up to a crime scene is a huge problem that should come with legal penalties. It causes confusion, mistaken identity, injury, and even death to innocent bystanders. But encrypting or blocking police radio traffic is not the answer; this tremendous loss of transparency by the public is too great a price to pay; in other words this loss of freedom in the name of safety is an old trick and one that always ends badly. Local Arizona governments must find another way to deal with this new problem. Let us recall something a true freedom fighter said a long time ago: “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.” Jefferson
Let me say that for the record, this proud Arizona Republican, former Combat Veteran, mother of two loves Cops, I generally trust them, and think they work their asses off in some unbelievably dangerous situations, but Phoenix Police officers are civilians, they are not members of the Nation’s military. Yes it is true that they are civilians charged with enforcing the law with the use of force if necessary, but they are civilians nonetheless. When civilian police officers begin to encrypt their official communications they have essentially made the mental transition from civilians who happen to be local law enforcement officers to a militarized arm of the state, subjected to different rules.
What are the benefits of having a “hot mic”? Turns out there are many. A free society must always retain their right to be alerted to danger in their area in order to protect themselves and their family, being able to hear what police are saying over the radio is also one of the only real ways of keeping them honest. Let’s face it, for every thousands of honorable, hard working Cops patrolling Phoenix streets there is always one who abuses their power. Would we, as free citizens allow police to all of a sudden remove all dash cams? No, because through the use of dash cams, some really awful and illegal abuses of power have been brought to light. I urge Phoenicians in the name of liberty and free citizenry to demand another solution to the legitimate problem of new technology and civilians who are not Cops showing up to crime scenes.
Would we allow pilots to encrypt their in- flight radio traffic because the FAA or DHS thinks Terrorists might be able to “listen in”? No, because this recorded information has provided citizens with information that has literally saved lives, exposed abusive and incompetent pilots, and dramatically improved the safety and security on planes.