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NYSBA Asks NY City Council to Keep NYPD Channels Open For Broadcast Journalists


For nearly 80 years (since the dawn of police radios), broadcast journalists have been able to report on NYPD activities by scanning police radios. Over the past year, however, the New York City Police Department has been deploying a new “encrypted” digital communications system. Unfortunately, these new encrypted radios prevent journalists from learning about police activities. The system has already been rolled out in 10 precincts in Brooklyn. The radios are expected to be deployed throughout the city by the end of 2024.


The New York City Council held a hearing yesterday to address this matter. NYSBA testified, arguing that broadcast journalists should maintain access to basic police dispatch information. We stated:

“The public’s right to know is fundamental to a functioning democracy in New York City. This is especially true with respect to its policing activity. Transparency is essential. The citizens of New York have a right to know the location of an event involving the NYPD in real time. Basic public safety requires that citizens know which areas of the city to avoid if there is ongoing criminal activity or a civil disturbance. 
For decades, journalists have had access to basic police radio “dispatch” communications.  Access to such basic information has been essential to providing New York’s citizens with life-saving information about events in the city involving the NYPD. The deployment of encrypted police radios, which prevent journalists from accessing basic information, impairs our ability to inform the community.”

We noted that journalists should have access to information in “real-time” and not be delayed by 30 minutes. We are concerned that NYPD seeks to delay a decision on the issue until the entire city has new radios, thereby presenting journalists with a “fait accompli.” We believe that NYPD and other police departments can rely on the recent New York Gun law, which prevented the general public from gaining access to body armor. When implementing the law, New York State allowed professional journalists access to body armor because of the dangerous nature of covering the news. We believe NYPD can use the same standard when crafting a policy that would allow journalists to maintain access.


In addition, legislation has been introduced that would prevent police departments across the state from encrypting communications to prevent journalists from gaining access to police communications. 


You can see a copy of our testimony before the NY City Council here.


You can see the NY Department of State’s decision to allow journalists access to body armor here


A copy of the recent legislation introduced by New York Senator Gianaris here

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