Raise Your Voice to Stop the NYPD Radio Blackout

Two images of police officers side-by-side, one rolling out crime scene tape (left) and the other speaking into a radio (right).

Tell your City Council member: Journalists need NYPD radio access

A vital source of news and information is being cut off right here in America’s media capital. The NYPD has already started encrypting the radio transmissions that journalists have used for 90 years to get tips about crime scenes, accidents and disasters.

It plans to complete the radio blackout by the end of the year and refuses to say whether it will enable journalists to have access to the encrypted transmissions.

The Deadline Club has joined with several other press groups in the recently formed New York Media Consortium to make our case for radio access.

After an unproductive meeting with NYPD officials last year, the Consortium has turned its attention to the New York City Council in an effort to win legislation that assures that journalists will continue to have real-time access to police radio transmissions.

We’re asking all journalists and concerned citizens to write to their City Council member. Even if you don’t live in New York City, you can still take part.

Just follow the easy, three-step process below.

How to contact your city council member

Step 1. Find your New York City Council member and email address HERE.

— If you don’t live in NYC, address the email to Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (District 28) with a cc to Council Member Yusef Salaam (District 9).

Step 2. Copy/paste the letter below into your  email and address it to your City Council member.
            — Be sure to place the Subject Line in its proper place
            — Be sure to insert the Council member’s surname into the greeting.
            — Be sure to print your name and address at the end so the Council member knows if you’re a constituent. Feel free to add any relevant affiliations.
Step 3. Edit the letter as you wish, give your email a final look and let it fly.

SUBJECT: Don’t let the NYPD block press access to its radio transmissions

Dear Council Member [XXXXXXX],

I’m a journalist who is concerned that public access to information about a key city agency is being severely curtailed.

I’m referring to the NYPD’s initiative to encrypt its radio transmissions, which is already underway in several precincts and will soon make citywide broadcasts unavailable to the press and the public.

At a joint hearing of three City Council committees on Nov. 20, 2023, NYPD Information Technology Chief Ruben Beltran said a decision on press access to the encrypted transmissions will be made after the project is completed at the end of this year.

The ramifications of a blackout on police radio transmissions are significant, not only because of the diminished flow of public information, but for the sake of public safety. Monitoring police radios enables journalists to quickly get to active crime and disaster scenes, and alert New Yorkers about their dangers.

Without the press at the scene, reporting of these matters would be left to the social media posts of untrained passersby and the selective whims of the NYPD itself.

Like other police departments, the NYPD says it needs to encrypt its transmissions to prevent criminals from jamming its signals or knowing the whereabouts of officers. But there are ways of maintaining press access and still giving the NYPD the security it says it needs.

In January 2023, representatives of several press organizations, known as the New York Media Consortium, met with NYPD officials in hopes of finding a reasonable accommodation. At the officials’ request, the group followed up with a Feb. 20, 2023, letter (Click Here) that offered cost-effective solutions for real-time press access. Efforts at further discussion have been unsuccessful.

The focus is now on a legislative solution. Action by the Council is the only way to assure continued real-time press access to NYPD transmissions, which is why the Consortium has reached out to the chair of the Committee on Public Safety.

I urge you to support real-time access for qualified journalists in any way that you can.

Thanks very much for your time and consideration.


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