Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, D., is facing criticism for ignoring local media members who are critical of her administration transitioning away from the traditional police scanner towards the use of an encrypted radio frequency.
A coalition of news organizations claims the new system will be inaccessible to the public and will hamper journalists’ ability to listen in real-time to warn the public about ongoing threats to safety.
Traditional police scanner transmissions have always been accessible to the public, as well as media personnel, but the new encryption method is only accessible to the police and those offered a decryption key.
“Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration has refused to meet with members of the Chicago media who have voiced concern this will impact journalists’ ability to cover events as they unfold and warn the public about ongoing threats to safety,” Chicago outlet WGN9 reported.
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“We are a coalition of Chicago-area news organizations concerned with this planned encryption and are sharing our concerns to raise awareness about how the City’s plan will impact our ability to provide timely, accurate and potentially life-saving news to you,” the letter reads.
The letter also references a shooting last week at a Chicago courthouse and police district in broad daylight. The perpetrator fired more than 40 shots and escaped. The media organizations that penned the letter said that the public did not see, hear or read about the crime as it was happening because of the new system.
“The City of Chicago prevented you from knowing about this dangerous incident by blocking all live scanner transmissions. This jeopardized the lives of everyone at that police department, everyone at that courthouse, everyone on that expressway,” the letter continues.
The news organizations also referenced another incident, in which the media was not able to report in real-time after a man armed with a rifle walked through a Chicago neighborhood, later being shot by police.
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According to news organizations that reached out to officials to ask that members of the press be granted access to the encrypted channels, the city said that press and the public would be given access on a 30-minute delay.
The City of Chicago, in a statement to Fox News Digital, said that the new encryption method is being rolled out in zones. To date, eight zones have been transitioned, beginning in May.
“Having encrypted radios will provide added protection for communities and the personal information of victims, suspects, witnesses, and juveniles. It also will enhance officer safety and prevent suspects from gaining a tactical advantage by listening to live incidents and investigations,” the city said.
The city added that the method will also eliminate “rogue” radios that disrupt emergency personnel, and will put the city on par with other major cities utilizing similar technology, such as Denver Colorado, Louisville, Kentucky, and a number of major cities in California, including San Francisco and San Diego County.
The city reiterated that the media and public will only have access to the delayed transmission, and did not indicate whether they plan to sit down with members of the media, or alter their policy in the future.
The media members worry that the delay could harm the public during quickly unfolding events, such as an active shooter event, a bomb scare, or fire.
They also claim that Lightfoot and her administration have refused to meet with the media in person to discuss the issue despite multiple attempts to engage with officials.
The media organizations that signed the letter include Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune, Fox 32 Chicago, WGN-TV, ABC 7 Chicago, NBC 5 Chicago, and CBS 2 Chicago.
Another bloody weekend in Chicago saw at least six people fatally shot and over a dozen more wounded by gunfire, including a 14-year-old boy who was struck multiple times, authorities said.
In total, there were 17 reported shooting incidents and 20 shooting victims. Police said at least six people were murdered in the weekend violence.
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