Public will no longer be able to monitor police radio traffic in Richmond-area

RICHMOND, Va. -- Major changes are coming to police communication in Central Virginia beginning Monday, July 2, when the Richmond, Chesterfield, and Henrico Police Departments will begin encrypting all radio transmissions.

That means police radio traffic that police and first responders use to communicate with one another will no longer be available for the public to monitor.

Local police departments say the move is years in the making and being done to promote the safety of first responders and citizens by limiting public access to information about police tactics during an emergency.

"I think a great example was given, when we talk about a person committing a burglary. You got an app on your phone, you can hear the officers responding, you got enough time to do what you are going to do and get out. Again, it's all in the interest of public safety," Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham.

In addition, officials say the move will protect sensitive personal information that is broadcast over police radios.

The change to radio encryption comes against a national backdrop where activists are calling for more transparency from police.

Open government groups say it will hinder the media's ability to inform the public about what's going on during an emergency.

During a presentation Tuesday, Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham said he believes the changes will make more info publicly available through a call log website and a new public Twitter account that they are launching.

“All call logs will be available. It's going to be on a public website, on a public domain, so that anyone can look at the calls for service,” said Chief Durham.

Chesterfield and Henrico Police Departments, who are also encrypting their police radios, both have set up similar call log sites.

The departments join Virginia Beach police and more than a dozen other Virginia police departments who announced they will encrypt their radio transmissions. The Hanover County Sheriff's Office has encrypted internal radio transmission for some time.