TOMS RIVER: Earlier today OCSN shared a story regarding the apparent error with the Ocean County Sheriff Department’s use of Nixle to alert residents. Residents can sign up via text or website to receive alerts to their devices from governmental agencies regarding major events. Agencies can also share information quickly with residents using Nixle, or any community alert platform popular today. Today an error occurred in Toms River resulting in false alerts going out warning of impending unspecified police activity in an unspecified area of town. Surely mistakes happen, but all this resulted in the onslaught of messages and alerts informing subscribers to sign up for a new Rave Alert system beginning May 01. All good; and you can refer back to our original story via the link under this paragraph to read that article from this afternoon.
Now allow OCSN to explain the second part of our story; the radio scanner encryption rant and subsequent correlation with police transparency. Ocean County Scanner News has been operating since July 2013; and news media pages have been listening and capturing breaking news events off scanners for decades. This practice of sourcing news is not easy, but it has been the hallmark of our organization since our inception. Moving to today’s world of a public demanding accountability from their governmental officials more than ever; it is high time we revisit excessive use of encryption on police dispatch channels. With modern radio systems and capabilities, there are ways to allocate multiple channels with varying levels of encryption. These multi-channel complex radio systems are essential to keeping our officers and other users safe and in constant communication with dispatch; but they allow for selective encryption on each channel.
Encryption plainly means the departments, like Toms River Police, purposely and voluntarily scrambling their channels and frequencies- kind of like some of you remember watching porn on cable after 22:00 in the 1990s. The signal is still being transmitted over the public-owned airwaves and frequencies, as per the FCC. However- the audio signal is distorted, or scrambled (encrypted) so people with scanners only hear garbled noise that cannot be deciphered or understood. That means OCSN- and everyone else who can buy a legal scanner- can not listen to that channel or frequency legally. Some departments that are more willing to compromise issue media radios; which is a receiver programmed by the police department to only pick up channels they wish the public, or media, to hear. Cities like Las Vegas, NV offer this kind of compromise to qualifying media organizations.
Encryption over radios can be a good thing when used with transparency in design. OCSN recognizes that we do not want sensitive information like SWAT, Undercover, or any other types of communications that could jeopardize officer safety picked up by “bad guys” listening to scanners in their hands- or over the internet. If that does happen, New Jersey already has laws on the books adding additional charges to criminals whom commit a crime in possession of a scanner. We here at OCSN get that- and encourage departments to solely leave dispatch channel(s) open with NO encryption- and switch to encrypted channels when the public has no business hearing the conversation. That is the real world approach to this- and legislation in Colorado has been introduced three times to outlaw the use of encryption on public dispatch channels in their state- it keeps getting rejected. Of course the Police Chief Unions and others keep spreading the propaganda of evil scanner listeners hearing what is happening int heir own towns- you know us nosy losers living in our parent’s basements. They throw around that magic “Officer Safety” term and everyone caves in with zero regard to the transparency aspect to this. One of you politicians in Trenton might sniff around the law books and see if this is even legal- as tax dollars fund ALL these department radio systems?
Click HERE to Follow Colorado Encryption Laws–> https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2020/02/21/colorado-bill-proposes-open-police-scanners-agencies-encrypt-them/4786156002/
So it is clear to you all that us here at Ocean County Scanner news demand the end of encryption on public airwaves in regard to dispatch channels. It is time that all of us whom vote connect police transparency with public access to communications on certain channels via scanners and receivers- and demand no encryption. Officer Safety is not a catch all to allow departments to do and say what they wish with zero regard to transparency and accountability. We already have OPRA- Open Public Records Act laws here in New Jersey- we need to merge them in with encryption laws too.
We leave you all here with our good friend Sheriff Mastronardy. We met with him back in the early design phases of the new Ocean County 700 MHz radio system. He is such a man of his word, and he promised OCSN that dispatch channels for the departments using his new system will remain unencrypted- with the secondary “mobile” channels using encryption should they need it. Certainly, a fair compromise- and that’s one reason we support his campaigns. There is more to it, but most of you are likely sleeping by now. We will revisit this later, but you all can begin arguing about this for now.
Sheriff Golden in Monmouth County offers no such compromise- just 100% encryption on ALL police channels there. Shame on him!
The following departments or agencies use total encryption on their police channels; meaning NOBODY outside the organization has access to listening to the communications.
- Berkeley Township Police (All 4 Channels) *Originally Dispatch was left clear
- Brick Police (All 5 Channels) *Encrypted since day 1
- Jackson Police (All Police Channels) *Encrypted since day 1
- Lakehurst Police (All Police Channels) *Encrypted as of 2019
- Lakewood Police (Police Channels 1 & 3) *Dispatch Encrypted as of 2017
- Lavallette Police (All Police Channels) *Encrypted since 2019
- Little Egg Harbor (All Police) *New system encrypted since 2020
- Long Beach Island (All Police) *New system encrypted since 2019
- Manchester (All police) *System originally allowed clear dispatch, now all 6 channels encrypted since 2017
- Point Pleasant Beach (All police) *Switched to digital encryption around 2018
- Point Pleasant Borough (All police) *Originally dispatch was left clear, now total encryption
- Stafford Police (All police) *Originally dispatch left clear with CH 2 encrypted; now total encryption
- Toms River Police (All 12 Police Channels) *Originally under Sheriff Mastronardy dispatch was left in the clear; now total encryption under Chief Mitch LIttle
- Ocean County Sheriff Department- New 700 MHz system: Police dispatch left clear, mobile channels encrypted as needed. OCSN 1 & 2 are clear with hidden calls, and CH’s 3 & 4 are encrypted.
- Ocean County Prosecutors Department (All Channels Encrypted)
- Ocean County College- All security channels encrypted
- Community Medical Center- All security channels encrypted
- Monmouth County Sheriff- ALL communications for Sheriff & local Police totally encrypted
- New Jersey State Police- Dispatch channels left open, most channels clear, sensitive channels encrypted
- *SOME USERS on the NJ State radio system are totally encrypted- like NJ Transit Police, Rutgers University, and other users.