SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Law enforcement radio communications will soon be encrypted in South Dakota’s two biggest communities.
The Sioux Falls Police Department, Rapid City Police Department, Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office and Pennington County Sheriff’s Office jointly announced Friday the public will not be able to listen to their radio communication beginning Monday, November 13. Authorities cited officer safety as well as consideration for victims and witnesses when announcing the change.
“For people intending to do bad things, to be able to hear everything the cops are doing at their fingertip is putting them at the advantage,” Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said.
Law enforcement leaders in Sioux Falls and Rapid City shared on Friday why they think the change will benefit public safety.
“We have had numerous situations just recently where we are catching people engaged in criminal activity who are listening to our scanners either in their earbuds or in their phone app,” Sioux Falls Chief of Police Jon Thum said.
“In recent years our officers have encountered suspects actively committing crimes out in our community that are adjusting their actions based upon live scanner traffic,” Rapid City Chief of Police Don Hedrick said.
Authorities also say this change will benefit victims and witnesses.
“We had people interrupt different crime scenes, we’ve had victims’ names being aired, locations being aired, and really as the technology has expanded, these tools are being used not only to compromise officer safety but also victim and witness privacy,” Thum said.
“Radio encryption will have an immediate and positive impact on law enforcement safety and will have an immediate and positive impact when it comes to protecting identifying and personal information for crime victims and witnesses,” Pennington County Sheriff Brian Mueller said.
For local news organizations like KELOLAND Media Group, the change means less immediate information. Friday’s news conference also included a promised commitment to transparency.
“We will work with you in the media to make sure that this transition works and that you’re able to continue to provide information,” Milstead said.