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APD switches to encrypted radio transmissions

Albany Police Deparment Deputy Chief Donald Frost is shown at a news conference Monday during which the APD announced it had switched to encrypted radio transmissions.

Albany Police Deparment Deputy Chief Donald Frost is shown at a news conference Monday during which the APD announced it had switched to encrypted radio transmissions.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Citizens whose police scanners no longer pick up law enforcement radio transmissions should not be alarmed. The scanners are fine. At 9:15 Monday morning the Albany Police Department encrypted its radio communications.

“We made this move to protect our officers,” Deputy Chief Donald Frost said during a news conference to announce the switchover. “Citizens who can no longer receive the transmissions can still call the police department for information.”

Frost said the $250,000 encryption system is intended to prevent criminals from being alerted to law enforcement activity. The new system was paid for through special-purpose local-option sales tax money.

“We did not buy new radios; all we had to do was switch to certain frequencies which have been encrypted,” Frost said.

When the new system was being discussed in January, APD Chief John Proctor said the move was being made to keep his officers safe and criminals in the dark.

“My officers are on the road and engaged with people every day,” Proctor said then. “It is about not allowing specific people to listen to scanners, specifically criminals.”

Frost agreed.

“This is about preventing us from sending out officers and people already know they are coming,” he said.

The move, however, also prevents local news organizations such as The Albany Herald, WFXL and WALB from picking up police chatter during breaking news events.

“It was not our intent to cut off the media,” Frost said. “Ms. Phyllis (Whitley-Banks, the Albany Police Department’s public information officer) will keep the media informed of any activity.”

Albany is following an encryption trend in Georgia, perhaps the entire country, said Frank Rotundo, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.

“Many police departments in Georgia are going to encryption,” Rotundo said. “It is about the safety of officers.”