Scrambling broadcasts unnecessary

Soon the days of Minot residents and members of the news media having access to police emergency broadcasts will be a thing of the past. The Minot Police Department this year plans to scramble all of its radio broadcasts.

As a news-gathering organization, the change is obviously a great concern. Newspapers and other media use the emergency broadcasts to monitor police calls, as well as fire and rescue calls. Having an emergency scanner in the newsroom is a tradition at newspaper newsrooms and other media locations. It’s a quick, efficient way to monitor potentially important stories, and to help the media remain the eyes and ears of the community.

Minot Police Chief Jason Olson and other law enforcement officials have expressed conceren that the broadcasts could be used by criminals to track police activity, and that personal information of anyone interacting with police officials could mistakenly be transmitted. While we don’t doubt that there is potential for the criminal element to use police broadcasts to enhance their illegal doings, we question whether that potential is actually being realized.

There’s no law that says the public must have access to police broadcasts, but North Dakota is a state that prides itself on having some of the best open records and open meetings laws in the country. This change to scramble emergency broadcasts contradicts the spirit of those laws, and that is of great concern to members of the media and it should be of great concern to residents as well.