For years, police scanners have provided information about Chicago crime and emergency responses in real time.
It's also something that journalists rely on to communicate emergency information to their audiences.
In Chicago, the ability to access police scanner traffic in real time is going away as Mayor Lightfoot moves forward with a plan to encrypt all police communications and delay them for 30 minutes, citing officer and victim safety.
Local media organizations, however, say the move will endanger public safety and is a massive blow to police transparency.
A group of local media outlets published an open letter decrying the move. It reads, in part: “In our view, encryption and delays run counter to resounding calls for greater transparency in law enforcement. The City has also already taken the liberty of completely removing some of these recorded transmissions from its delayed broadcast, effectively causing certain police or fire incidents to vanish – as though they never happened. This is censorship in its purest form.”
The City of Chicago sent WTTW News a statement saying, in part: “Radios serve as lifelines for our first responders and the encrypted radios will eliminate “Rogue” radios with disruptive, often derogatory transmissions that disrupt the day-to-day traffic for emergency personnel. Having encrypted radios will 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.”
Joining “Chicago Tonight” to discuss the issue are Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward), Ed Yohnka, director of communications for the ACLU of Illinois, and Steve Mandell, who is representing the local news outlets.