NPD’s new radio blocks public ears
NASHUA – The Nashua Police Department this week is transitioning to a “fully encrypted” radio communications system, which means all radio transmissions will no longer be heard over police scanners or through social media apps and Websites such as Broadcastify.com.
Police Chief Michael Carignan said Wednesday the decision to switch to full encryption was driven by the need to ensure the safety of officers.
Carignan cited recent incidents, such as one in which people were listening to police radio broadcasts and sharing an officer’s specific location and movement “play by play” on social media.
Carignan emphasized the switch to the new system is not based on attempts to hide information from the public, but on the importance of protecting officer safety.
Another driving factor behind the decision to encrypt the department’s radio system, Carignan said, is the increasing availability of social media apps that allow users to communicate instantly information that can potentially endanger officers working on the streets.
With this week’s upgrade, which Carignan said involves reprogramming some radios and switching out others, Nashua joins the list of New Hampshire police departments that includes Hudson and Manchester.
In Manchester, police officials, in an effort to improve transparency with residents, instituted a dispatch call log to be posted online with a 30-minute delay. The log includes basic call information, such as time, address of service and the nature of the call.
Carignan said he is not familiar with the Manchester system, but said he will look into it to see if it is an option.
There is virtually no cost-effective – or legal – way for the public to listen to encrypted radio transmissions.
There are two types of encryption – full, which is what Nashua is adopting, and tactical, which involves channels police use to communicate during operations such as drug or gang enforcement, stakeouts, or SWAT incidents.
A full encryption system esstentially translates text data into a format that can only be decrypted by an encryption algorithm. The key used to encrypt the data is also the solution for decrypting it, so without the key, the information is useless to the person on the receiving end.