Longmont police chief Mike Butler presented to the Longmont City Council about how encrypting police radios has made both the public and the police force safer and a decision was made, after a 6 month trial period, to continue encrypting radios indefinitely.
According to Chief Butler and Deputy Chief Jeff Satur, the ease with which potential criminals can access police radios, especially with the release of apps for phones that anyone can very easily use and carry with them, has enabled people who commit crimes to listen into police radio traffic to determine the specific location of officers while doing their jobs.
They cited significant statistics collected between September 22nd, 2018 through March 21st, 2019 that showed the encryption had made the police more effective and safer.
Some of the statistics in the report include:
A 44% decrease in assaults on police officers. A 24% increase in curfew tickets (related to prevention of auto break-ins and other crimes). The rate at which suspects committing a property crime (burglary) eluded police dropped 57%. Overall burglary arrests had a 50% increase. Burglary in progress arrests saw a 167% increase. Larceny (thefts, auto break-ins shoplifting, etc.) arrests saw a 37% increase, larceny in progress arrests increased by 22% and the elusion rate while committing larceny’s decreased 47%. Arrests for auto thefts saw a 100% increase with suspects ability to elude officers decreasing by 100%.
Butler also reported on how community member privacy was being better protected due to the use of names, ages, and addresses used during the dispatch of officers to domestic abuse and child abuse cases.
Satur and Butler both talked about the many ways the police department has participated in the community and in how it works with community members and groups to be open and transparent, using “policing and partnership with people” as a guiding principle.
This includes how police staff walks Longmont’s neighborhoods, including Butler himself leading over 200 of those walks (the Longmont Observer editor in chief Macie May, has accompanied Chief Butler, along with other citizens of the community, on one of these walks).
Butler pointed out how the media have always had access to the police department radios and still do including the Longmont Observer and the Times-Call. Both local media entities currently have police radios in their offices with 24/7 access.
Butler also publicly announced for the first time that all Longmont Police Officers now have body cameras. Interviews with the police for more in-depth information on this development are in progress.
There was some discussion about whether or not this should have been a policy decision by City Council versus an operational decision by the police department by Council Member Waters, though Waters indicated he would ‘enthusiastically support’ a policy of encrypting radios.
Council Member Bonnie Finely and Mayor Brian Bagley both indicated their belief the police should make operational decisions to protect police officers and members of the community as well as deciding how to do their jobs.
The full presentation to City Council can be watched above.
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