(TNS) – Public access to the non-tactical radio traffic of Honolulu Police, Firefighters, Emergency Medical Services Operators, and Ocean Security Personnel will remain restricted for at least the next 90 days as Honolulu Hale has decided not to enter into an agreement with the Hawaiian media to restore access.

Public access to the non-tactical radio traffic of Honolulu Police, Firefighters, Emergency Medical Services Operators, and Ocean Security personnel will remain restricted for at least the next 90 days as Honolulu Hale has decided not to enter into a agreement with the Hawaiian media to restore access.

Instead, the Honolulu Police Department has launched a new audience that lists the most active police cases and is automatically updated every 15 minutes. The site includes a one- or two-word description of the type of incident, date, time, neighborhood and address, with the exact location blanked out.

On February 15, the public and news organizations lost the ability to monitor radio communications from taxpayer-funded first responders as the final phase of the city’s $ 15 million conversion from an analog to an encrypted digital system concluded. Motorola P25. Media access was eventually replaced by sporadic HPD notification emails that include a small number of police cases each day.

In a meeting Wednesday attended by representatives from Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now, Mayor Rick Blangiardi, who has worked in the television news industry for decades, said he understands the concerns about public access raised by the media and the detailed instances in which he had argued for greater access to information on police operations with former bosses Louis Kealoha and Susan Ballard.

However, he said, the decision to restore public access to radio traffic rests with HPD chief Arthur “Joe” Logan.

“This is Chief Logan’s decision. I support it more than 100 percent,” Blangiardi said. “I understand our responsibility to the media, to the public, but at the same time what is kept in the foreground is our ability to do the best possible job, while protecting the men and women who protect us.”

The meeting was also attended by Honolulu Fire Chief Sheldon K. Hao, Honolulu Department of Emergency Services Director Dr. Jim Ireland, and Logan, who announced the new website.

Logan said members of the media and the public can visit the HPD website, honolulupd.org, click on the information and resources tab, and scroll all the way down to an Active Police Dispatch Call List link on the new page. Web that automatically updates almost all active police incident every 15-26 minutes.

Blangiardi asked the media to give the new system a chance and said he would pick up the subject after three months.

“The new HPD system is definitely an improvement over the current media notification emails and we are willing to test it in the next three months,” said Dennis Francis, president and editor of Star-Advertiser. “We appreciate the effort to listen to our concerns. However, we strongly believe that when media access to communication with the police scanner was cut off earlier this year, Oahu residents were also excluded from major real-time information on crime, fires and other emergencies in their neighborhoods. We will continue to support the return to limited media access to basic emergency dispatch communications so that we can keep the public properly informed. “

Before government agencies’ unilateral actions to encrypt radio communications from first responders, news outlets and the public had access to police, fire and ambulance calls through commercial technology available since the 1920s.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, law enforcement and first responders began to move slowly towards military standards for encryption and interoperability between county, state and federal entities. News outlets have never had access to the radio channels used by first responders handling emergencies, live events or critical incidents.

After Honolulu cut public access to scanners, the Star-Advertiser asked the city to consider a deal similar to the one made in Las Vegas. In 2018, Las Vegas news outlets agreed to pay for their Moto Rola P25 radios, which cost up to $ 10,000 each. Media organizations have agreed not to alter the equipment or use it in any way other than to monitor police approved and scheduled channels.

The police retain the right to randomly inspect radios for unapproved fixes and to confiscate them and block access if the deal has been breached.

In March, Blangiardi expressed interest in the 2018 agreement between the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the media on the parameters for restoring access to encrypted radio traffic. Blangiardi asked the company’s city council to review the agreement. City officials did not disclose what legal advice, if any, they received from their lawyers.

On Wednesday, Blangiardi asked Logan to investigate P25 radio encryption further and to appeal on the advisability of restoring access to the media before the mayor revisits the subject with news outlets in the new year.

Logan said cryptography serves the security of officers as if the public cannot listen to the dispatches, the potential for attackers to ambush or evade officers can be reduced.

Additionally, Logan said a federal requirement to protect personal information, such as dates of birth, names, addresses, and social security numbers, has considered the decision to encrypt.

Logan said he learned at the Major Cities Chiefs Association 2022 annual meeting in Dallas that most major cities do not share encrypted radio access with the media and the public.

“The whole concept of what we did … maybe up to five years ago is now old technology. And so the 21st century police use the new technology,” he said, adding that the rules and regulations that police now has to follow making encryption mandatory, essentially.

Both the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now are advocating restoring the limited access to first responders radio traffic that existed prior to the conversion. In March, Honolulu City Council Chairman Tommy Waters tabled a resolution urging the city administration to restore public access to police, fire and emergency services radio traffic.

News agencies are concerned about maintaining access to timely information that allows them to keep the public informed about emergencies and police and fire activities in their area.

The police currently send a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet attached to an email containing the address, date, time, initial case classification and initial disposition for certain incidents, such as homicides, robberies, critical traffic accidents and mortals, barricade situations and missing persons cases. The emails are compiled and distributed manually, but they don’t represent the majority of police activity in Oahu.

The Honolulu firefighters send emails and text messages with abbreviations that let the media know which units are being sent to where and what type of emergency they are responding to. The department also publishes multiple email press releases almost every day detailing noteworthy incidents.

EMS updates and emails the media a running list of its calls in real time using Google Docs and often updates the document with more details.


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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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