Cops, deputies scramble radio chatter - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Cops, deputies scramble radio chatter

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DCP Capt. Jackie Battle and Dougherty Sheriff's officer Mark Shirley discuss business DCP Capt. Jackie Battle and Dougherty Sheriff's officer Mark Shirley discuss business
Albany Police Deputy Chief Donald Frost Albany Police Deputy Chief Donald Frost
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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

 The media and citizens with police scanners can no longer listen to radio conversations by the two largest law enforcement agencies in Dougherty County. The Albany Police Department and Dougherty County Sheriff's Office started encrypted all radio traffic Monday morning. They say it's to protect you and themselves.

Critics say there are better ways to use the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on the equipment. City and county leaders tell us encrypting those transmissions will protect officers and fight crime.

But do you, the tax payers, have a right to listen to those police transmissions to keep track on your public servants?

Most Albany and Dougherty County leaders say the police protection is their top priority. If you own a police scanner, you only heard gibberish today from Albany Police and Dougherty County Sheriff's Office radio transmissions. At 9:00 this morning police termed it the "Big Switch," when they encrypted all their radio transmissions.

Albany Police Deputy Chief Donald Frost said the purpose is, "To insure when our officers respond to calls and go out on cases the criminal element as you will, won't know we are on our way. Or we're coming."

People who like to listen to the police transmissions, and the media of course, will not be able to keep up with police activities as well. "It may, but I can assure you it's never our intent to cut off the media or cut off anyone else," Frost said. The Dougherty County Police Department will not encrypt their general transmissions.

They have the equipment so they can listen to the APD and Sheriff's Officer, but Chief Jackie Battle decided to leave their transmissions clear. "I think right now we don't have a problem with the officer's safety issue, so I decided we will still continue to do clear voice. There could be some operations that we will use encryption for."

Dougherty County Commissioner's Chairman of Public Safety Jack Stone said he supports the Sheriff's decision to encrypt. "I think the more information you give out to thugs, the more thuggier they are going to be. Is that what you would say, I guess. It's a bad situation out there and they need all the help they can get."

But now the taxpayers and the media will not be able to hear police radio traffic, and keep informed of what's going on in the community. "I guess it's two-fold," Battle said. "I understand that there is a need for people to hear, but I also understand that there is a need for officer safety. So I know there are two sides of it."

Albany Police say they will inform the media and the public of community activity by e-mail and social media. The city paid more than a quarter-million dollars for the encryption equipment. The cost to the county was more than $122,000. The Drug Unit and the Gang Task Force already encrypted their transmissions. Commissioners approved the spending years ago.

The encryption means other agencies such as Dougherty County School Police and the Georgia State Patrol can no longer receive Albany police and Dougherty County Sheriff's radio transmissions.

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