CO Cops Encrypt Communications So Public Can't Listen In

Local newspaper won access as a watchdog


Earlier this week, we made a difficult decision. As shareholders in our process, I wanted to bring you in on it.

As you likely saw in Friday's paper, Fort Collins Police Services is encrypting all of its radio traffic next week. This is a move we've been pushing hard against since we first reported it as a possibility months ago. We believe the more open our public agencies are, the more accountable they are to all of us.

At the same time, it's hard to discount the police department's point about the rise in bad guys endangering lives by using smartphones tuned to police radio traffic. Both the Coloradoan and the police have been trying to come up with solutions that will keep the public informed, keep public agencies accountable and keep officers safe while they do their duty.

This week, a compromise was reached.

The Coloradoan will get access to the encrypted dispatch channel so we can independently keep Fort Collins informed of real-time events and monitor police radio traffic. It's an offer police were under no obligation to make, and it's one that is preferable to the deafening silence we were going to face. That said, we still had to think carefully about it before accepting.