Today’s the day that the Little Rock Police Department joins other departments — but not all, notably the Arkansas State Police — in “encrypting” its radio broadcasts.
In short, people with scanners and cell phone apps that plug into police radio frequencies will no longer be able to hear transmissions from the LRPD.
Police argue that this is a safety measure for officers and that it prevents criminals from monitoring police activity while they are up to no good. These sound like plausible arguments, though police are short of solid evidence of how often, if ever, this has been true in practice.
This much is a certainty, which I say after 41 years in the newspaper business, the first 19 with a police scanner burbling behind my chair near the Arkansas Gazette city desk:
This change will suppress the flow of news about criminal activity in Little Rock. It will suppress the presence of news reporters at developing crime and disaster scenes. It will allow police even more freedom over the events they choose to disseminate to the public. Less information is less information. It is bad, not good, in a democratic society, particularly one in which city government is frequently under fire for its response to crime.
A current member of the city board, Stacy Hurst, recently announced a crime platform if she’s elected as a Republican to the state House of Representatives. She points to nothing the city has done to combat crime in her 12 years on the board. Now she thinks spending more state money on prisons and parole and drug courts and such is the answer to crime concerns.
It’s not too late for Director Hurst to take a small but worthwhile stand on something she can actually accomplish — push the City Board to countermand this bad police decision to reduce transparency about crime and cop operations in the city of Little Rock.