a matter of security, not politics – The Orion

A invoice this would force law enforcement and police departments to find other options than encrypting radio channels.

The bill, drafted by Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, responds to many police departments and other law enforcement agencies switching to encrypted radio channels. This makes it extremely difficult for journalists and citizens to monitor police activity or other emergency events, such as forest fires.

We know all too well about the large, catastrophic wildfires in the Upstate. Listening to scanner traffic during wildfires is key to knowing where the fire is heading, what firefighters are doing, where evacuations might be, and how dangerous the fire is. Especially for one of the jobs I have.

I’m part of what’s called “Fire Twitter”, a group of individuals who listen to scanner traffic, monitor cameras, follow local law enforcement and emergency services, and tweet updates to the public to assist members of the emergency services.

We all have at least one common interest: to help serve the public and help those in need of information. Being aware of natural disasters can go a long way in reducing anxiety, especially for wildfires, as these are fluid and ever-changing disasters.

Nothing is more frustrating than having a wildfire in a county that encrypts all of its radio traffic, here in California and across the country. This makes our job much more difficult, as scanner traffic is essential to relay fast, reliable and up-to-date information.

Cutting that out of our plethora of data greatly reduces our effectiveness in providing the public with the insights they seek. Nothing hurts more than covering a wildfire with no scanner channels – local residents message you or comment under your tweets about the latest news, and you dejectedly say there isn’t any.

Supporting and passing this bill would eliminate the fear of the unknown for all involved. Home- and safety-conscious residents wouldn’t have to worry. Journalists would be able to hear where emergencies are happening to report on them, helping the public stay informed. Independent media, like me, could listen to operations and stay informed of where to film safely.

However, this does not mean that every piece of information must be made public.

The bill specifically states that personal identifying information will be protected, such as individuals’ social security numbers, driver’s license numbers and criminal records.

It’s not a question of left versus right, Democrat versus Republican. It is a matter of public safety. It’s a matter of our right to stay informed about what’s happening in the communities we love and care about. This is to keep the community safe.

That is why I implore you to express your support for this bill, to call your local representatives to help pass it through the State Senate. To help myself and others on Twitter, Facebook or any other form of social media to keep you informed about wildfires and stay up to date with the latest information and operations carried out by law enforcement.

Michael Steinberg can be contacted at [email protected] or

@MichaelWX18 on Twitter.

Norman D. Briggs