The NYPD is spending $390 million on a new radio system that will encrypt officers’ communication, denying the public and press access to police dispatches for the first time in more than a century, Bahar Ostadan reports for Gothamist. Police radio channels that have been public since 1932 will now be encrypted by December 2024, a plan that critics say could allow the department to avoid accountability, such as when NYPD officers were recorded using threatening language about protesters in June 2020, including saying that officers should run protesters over and shoot them.
The NYPD argues that the encryption is needed because bad actors have used the current radio system against them by, for example, fleeing police officers by listening into NYPD radio channels to anticipate their location or breaking into the police radio system to disrupt communications with music or their own voice. While the current system consists of hundreds of radio antennas and transmission sites, the new digital system would use an ethernet set-up and require a special key to access the channels. The change comes amid the news that the NYPD has been spared from the next round of massive budget cuts otherwise hitting New York City agencies right now.