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Police Encryption Bill Passes the New York Senate but Fails in Assembly

As we noted previously, NYPD is in the process of encrypting its police radio communications.  Despite decades of relying on access to police communications to cover breaking news, broadcast journalists are losing access to basic police communications in boroughs across the city.  NYPD claims it needs to encrypt its communications to prevent criminals from accessing its communications.  However, journalists are not the “bad guys.”  For nearly 90 years, journalists have had access to police communications and NYPD cannot provide a single example of where this endangered a police officer.  Apart from NYPD, there is a concern that this policy can spread throughout the state.

To address this concern, NYSBA and other journalist groups strongly supported the “Keep Police Radio Public Act.” The legislation, S.7759, passed the NY State Senate.  Unfortunately, its companion bill in the Assembly, A9728-A, did not pass.   


Importantly, the law would require all law enforcement entities in the state to allow professional journalists access to basic police communications.  The legislation reads:

“Any law enforcement agency in the state that encrypts any portion of its radio communications shall ensure that all radio communications, with the exception of sensitive information, are accessible, in real time, to emergency services organizations and professional journalists as defined in section seventy-nine-h of the civil rights law.  In the event that a law enforcement agency does encrypt radio communications pursuant to this subdivision, the department of state shall, for the purpose of verifying credentials, establish and administer a process for granting real-time access to radio communications to emergency services organizations and to professional journalists.  Such a process for granting access shall take no more than five business days to complete.”

Under the legislation, the rules governing journalist access would be established and implemented by the New York Department of State.  This helps ensure that local departments could not block access to journalists.


This is the first time this legislation has been introduced.  Passing the Senate in the first year is an accomplishment.  However, there is more work to do.  We will be working with the Assembly and Governor’s office to move this legislation forward.


You can see a copy of the legislation here.



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