By a 4-3 margin, the New Jersey Supreme Court narrowly dealt a blow to the ability of the public to access police dash cam videos with their ruling in John Paff’s latest case against the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office on Monday.
Once again Gavin Rozzi is spot-on with his latest political editorial. Today the NJ Supreme Court ruled that citizens are NOT entitled to dashcam video under NJ OPRA. This is a huge loss, and only made it by a 4:3 margin. Now the cops will be able to hide even more from the public.
Take Toms River for example, 12 channels for police and all encrypted. There is NO valid educated reason that channel 1 can’t be left open in the clear for citizens, media, and scanner listeners- and channels 2-12 can be left 100% encrypted. Studies have proven that citizen and media help with crime over and over again; even such that towns have Facebook pages where they beg us for help identifying local criminals. We have been doing this forever with scanners, but they took it away from us.
The standard rebuttal from the brass and boot-lickers alike is “Officer Safety” which as much a crock of shit as you can get. Don’t get any of us wrong, the respect I have and the page has for cops has been well proven for 5+ years. Officers deserve the latest tools and safest equipment to protect themselves from the modern criminal element. There is an easy compromise between technology, officer safety, and the media. Either leave channel 1 open for everyone, or allow the media to buy public access radios that the cops program just to listen to channel 1. Many large cities with real crime already do this for transparency and to get the public’s help with stuff.
Take the worst-case scenario, a MV stop gone wrong. An officer gets murdered on the spot, but is able to call in the appropriate code for officer down. Units respond to the scene rapidly, and likely some nosy neighbors also. At this point, anyone listening now knows that an officer is down and to avoid the area. We also know if there is a BOLO that we can put out before the Nixle and all that stuff. If the suspect is armed and fled on foot in a neighborhood, what is so wrong about us sharing that information? Wouldn’t everyone reading want to know this, and adjust their surroundings appropriately? Even as the units search for the suspect, move all communications over to an encrypted channel to keep the wrong people from listening!
Anyway, this issue even came to legislation in Colorado! It never passed, but actual legislation was drafted to be law to prohibit encryption on dispatch channels. EVERY other channel can be encrypted, and rightfully so, but dispatch needs to be left clear. That is the best legislation I have seen on a state level since they legalized weed. Too bad the PBA’s fought like children and cried that officer safety flag hard in the state house.
In the end the key to transparency is open communications between government and citizen taxpayers. NJ State Police are the posters for transparency, along with towns like Seaside Heights and Barnegat. They allow routine dispatch channels to be left open, while only encrypt detectives, SWAT, and the other obvious sensitive channels. Many towns cry about the scanner apps and pages like this too for giving criminals the upper hand. That is false, information obtained on a scanner or through media pages like this are not going to aid criminals. The worst thing that happens is the house on 250 Main Street knows their music is too loud, and they turn it down before the cops even have to get out of the car.
I challenge anyone to tell me that by NOT leaving dispatch channel open and unencrypted, a department is promoting ANY sense of transparency? Channels 2-100… sure encrypt with 100,000-bit triple encryption if it makes you feel better. Taxpayers pay for ALL this radio equipment, and the days of locking everyone out of everything are coming to a close (mark my word) soon. Toms River even encrypts the Animal Control Officers and Crossing Guards; it is absurd. I know TRPD is a good group, and I have heard their communications on occasion. They genuinely have nothing real to hide, I feel like all these towns are doing it just because everyone is doing it, and they hate nosy people like us and this page.
End Rant… but please read Gavin’s post on his website!