This story was printed in Saturday’s Daily Post. To get all of the local news first, pick up the Post in the mornings at 1,000 mid-Peninsula locations.
BY KYLE MARTIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
Palo Alto Police Chief Robert Jonsen has asked the state to allow the city to reverse its controversial decision to encrypt police radio transmissions to “allow for greater transparency with the public” in a letter obtained by the Post yesterday.
Palo Alto City Council on Monday (April 5) will discuss Jonsen’s decision to encrypt police radio transmissions, prevent the public and news media from hearing when police are dispatched to an incident.
Jonsen asked Joe Dominic, chief of California Justice Information Services, for the rest of the year to figure out a way to keep the radio transmissions available to the public.
“The city of Palo Alto is requesting guidance on if we can revert our primary law enforcement radio channel back to a non-encrypted channel, while alternative options are explored, to allow for greater transparency with the public,” Jonsen said in his letter to Dominic. “This will result in PII information being broadcast on a non-encrypted channel. The city of Palo Alto would remain on a publicly accessible channel until Dec. 31, 2021, unless a viable alternative has been identified before that date.”
Jonsen encrypted Palo Alto’s police radio transmissions on Jan. 5 after Dominic sent a memo to all police departments in October asking that they stop broadcasting personally identifiable information, such as birth dates and driver’s license numbers, and confidential law enforcement information, such as a suspect’s criminal history.
The switch in Palo Alto happened with less than a day’s notice to the public, and then the cities of Mountain
View and Los Altos followed suit soon after. However, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Atherton and Redwood City are among the many police departments that have kept their frequencies open to the public. Menlo Park and Atherton are looking into the possibility of encryption.
The Dominic’s memo said departments could find ways to keep radio transmissions public, though it did not provide any examples of alternatives to full encryption.
Jonsen previously said he has considered other options, but that none would work.
Council will review the encryption issue and other police matters, such as the use of police dogs, during its meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday.
Watch the meeting at zoom.us/join or call in at (669) 900-6833 using meeting ID 362-027-238.
Previous stories about the encryption of police radios