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The NYPD Doesn’t Want the Public to Hear What They Say Over the Radio

A newly proposed law aims to maintain transparency in the cops's radio communications. Plus, more links for your Tuesday.

(Davis Staedtler / Flickr)

Mayor Adams may not be able to find the cash to keep the City's libraries open, but the NYPD is spending $500 million on a new radio system that will encrypt police communications over the next five years. This move will block the public from listening in on police communications, something we've been able to do for decades, and reporters and police transparency advocates are particularly up in arms over this shift. Some frequencies, the New York Times reported, have already begun to be encrypted. NYPD officials are assuring the public that going dark will improve public safety. But on Monday, the City Council's Public Safety Committee held a hearing to discuss the NYPD's move to keep the public from listening in on their radio chatter, and lawmakers, journalists, and police accountability advocates cast doubt on those assertions.

“We are the media capital of the world. If we just cut off the media to any interest encryption, completely, it would be really counterproductive,” New York City Councilmember Robert Holden said at the hearing. 

Todd Maisel, a journalist who said he'd been "chasing radios" for 40 years and had "always been a friend of the police department," went further, calling the new project a "betrayal." “It’s not about radio encryption, it’s whether you trust the NYPD narrative," Maisel said during Monday's hearing. "Do you trust the police to be 100 percent transparent with the most regressive transparency policy in the history of New York City?” 

Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, has similar concerns. “The idea that we’re going to turn this sort of vital information into something that’s only accessible to the public at the whims of police is just truly chilling," Cahn told the New York Times.

The NYPD's Chief of Information Technology Ruben Beltran claimed during the hearing that “the NYPD is the most transparent police force in the country.” Beltran added, “Allowing the status quo to continue will unnecessarily put our city at risk.”

In a press conference in July, Mayor Eric Adams said that keeping NYPD radio chatter out of public reach was so that "bad guys" who listen in "don’t continue to be one up on us.” 

On Monday, the NYPD brushed aside concerns that blocking journalists from radio communications will limit press access to important events. "The media is resourceful," Beltran said. "They'll figure it out."

But State Senator Michael Gianaris from Queens disagrees. On Friday, he introduced the "Keep Police Radio Public Act," legislation that would require the cops to continue to give the public access to their radio communications.

"This has been a practice that's been in place for decades, where the public, and the media especially, have access to police radio chatter so that they can keep tabs on what law enforcement is doing," Gianaris told ABC7. "That creates accountability, transparency. It's the type of checks and balances that we need in our system. And to cut that off now and allow the police to operate in secret is a very dangerous thing to do."

Well, the police would never try to cover up anything, would they?

These links are accessible to the public:

  • The mayor's budget chief is demanding a 20 percent reduction in spending on migrants, but no spending reduction for the NYPD, FDNY, or Sanitation.
  • Another casualty of the budget cuts will be the Parks Opportunity Program, which provided job coaching and employment placement within the Parks Department.
  • Rookie move: Adams's aide Rana Abbasova reportedly ordered staff to “delete” their text messages with her hours after the feds raided her home in New Jersey.
  • As he was leaving a town hall meeting in Coney Island, Mayor Adams was asked about who would donate to his legal defense fund. His response: "Do you see all these people that love me? People love me as mayor. So they have the right to do whatever they want when they love their mayor…That’s what America’s about.”
  • An event at Columbia Law School titled "Israeli Authorities' Crimes of Apartheid Under International Law" where a Human Rights Watch staffer was set to speak was canceled when university officials said the event did not comply with new policies.
  • The New York Times spoke to five migrants who are trying to make a life in New York City.
  • Grim news for Long Islanders looking to lose money at blackjack tables at Nassau Coliseum.
  • The Adams administration needs to find a way to legalize basement apartments to increase the housing supply.
  • John Catsimatidis wants to bring pandas to New York City: "I'll even pick them up."
  • And finally, no matter how rough you may have had it growing up, you didn't have it as bad as Mayor Adams:

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