- Associated Press - Monday, July 7, 2014

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Minot’s police department is planning to scramble its radio broadcasts by the end of the year, ending public access to officers’ conversations.

Members of the public currently can listen to police radio traffic on scanners. Journalists often use them to keep tabs on possible news stories.

There are numerous reasons for cutting off that public access to police communications, Capt. John Klug told the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/1qNJGSb ). They include the possibility of criminals using the information to avoid capture, and the possible public release of personal information such as names and addresses of people with whom officers speak.

“There’s kind of a balance between how we can do our job effectively and how we can share the information,” Klug said.

North Dakota Newspaper Association attorney Jack McDonald said Minot police are doing nothing wrong.

“There’s no state law or no laws that provide that you have access to those radios,” he said. “It’s certainly within the rights of the police department to scramble. It wouldn’t be a violation of any open meetings or open records laws because there are no rights to those broadcasts in the first place.”

McDonald said it does not appear that the scrambling of police communications is a trend around the country.

Police in Fort Collins, Colorado, made the move about a year ago. The newspaper in that city is now leasing a police radio from the department for $100 a month to keep up with basic emergency radio traffic.

Eric Larson, a senior editor at The Coloradoan newspaper, said that radio “stays mostly quiet” and the newspaper has turned to more extensive use of social media to learn of events.

“You kind of play the hand that you’re dealt,” he said.

___

Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com


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