Springfield Police now encrypting radio transmissions

Officer safety, privacy of witnesses cited as reasons for encryption

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Starting on Thursday, the Springfield Police Department is encrypting their radio transmissions as a way to improve safety. By encrypting the radio transmissions, that means no one else, other that Springfield police officers, can hear any of their radio conversations.

Springfield police captain Harry Kastrinakis told 22News that there are about 700 radios that the department has to switch over. They started on Thursday and will take several days to individually encrypt them.

Springfield Police Comissioner John Barbieri says by making this change, it’ll protect the locations of police officers from anyone who could be hearing their radio conversations. Barbieri also said that the encryption protects the identities of reporting 911 callers. Witness and victim identities are sometimes also shared on these radios, which the commissioner says should be protected. Other police stations across the country have also encrypted their radio transmissions, such as Manchester, NH and Pasadena, CA.

Critics argue, however, that this is a transparency issue. Media outlets like 22News utilize these scanners to hear when there’s breaking news going on in your area, to make sure we can keep you informed and safe. As soon as the scanners go silent, it makes it harder to keep you informed and safe.

22News asked Commissioner Barbieri about the transparency issue this could create. Barbieri told 22News, “You’re absoutely right. We know there’s a concern for transparency. We’re going to resolve that. We’re going to try and work with the media. It’s either going to be a twitter or a tweet to get information out. Our primary concern when we started this, in all reality, it was abut victims of domestic violence.”

Commissioner Barbieri said state law protects those identities. He hopes more people will report cime, knowing their information is safe.