The dangers of encrypting Chicago police radio transmissions — what to know

Chicago media companies are at odds with the city over a plan to encrypt live police radio transmissions.

Those companies, including FOX 32, believe this action will put your safety at risk.

Ahead of this encryption process, which has already begun by the way, we asked to meet in person with the city to address our concerns. Despite multiple attempts, Mayor Lori Lightfoot flatly refuses to even discuss the matter.

Scanner transmissions, like a recent one that alerted us to a potential active shooter at the Willis Tower in July, will no longer be available in real time. The city of Chicago is encrypting the broadcasts, only allowing both the press and the public access on a 30-minute delay.

"They've already started to roll this out, and it's not good. There are gaps in the transmission, and it's unreliable and its unsearchable, and it's akin to giving the fox the key to the chicken coop really," said attorney Steven Mandell.


When seconds count, Chicago media companies believe this will hinder our ability to keep you safe and informed and make it more difficult to hold our government and its personnel accountable.

"You have the right to monitor how police are doing their jobs, and they're not going to volunteer that information, history has shown us, right?" Mandell said. "The police didn't say, ‘oh we shot Laquan McDonald 16 times.’ The police in Uvalde didn't say, ‘oh maybe we should have gone in a little sooner.’"

The city's reasoning for the transition? In a statement sent to FOX 32, Chicago says in part the change will eliminate rogue radios that disrupt operations, as well as "provide added protection for communities and the personal information of victims, suspects, witnesses, and juveniles. It also will enhance officer safety and prevent suspects from gaining a tactical advantage by listening to live incidents and investigations."


The encryption is already happening. Last week, a shooting took place at a courthouse and police district in Chicago. The perpetrators fired more than 40 shots and escaped on an expressway. Chicago blocked all live scanner transmissions of this incident.

Also, last week, we learned that a man armed with a rifle was walking down the street in West Pullman during dinnertime while families were returning home from work and school.

We were not able to alert the public as it was happening. Again, blocked by the city of Chicago.

This year, Palo Alto, California's police chief reversed its controversial encryption policy.

"If you think about it, like Palo Alto apparently has, it's not right from a public safety standpoint, and it's not right from a transparency standpoint. If you're going to want to boast that you have a transparent government, you don't want to be encrypting the transmissions about how you do your job."

If you'd like to read our letter further explaining the consequences of this new Chicago policy, visit HERE.