Police Scanner Encryption Explained

What is ‘encrypted’ police communication?

Police can encrypt their radio communication so their conversations cannot be monitored by outsiders.

This affects citizens directly & indirectly including those that use police scanner radios to monitor broadcasts including the media, amateur radio hobbyists, citizens, & anyone who uses a scanner to hear what’s going on in their area in real time.

Encryption of public airwaves by the government is a highly debated issued in the US & most states have some form of encryption.

What’s encrypted varies from state to state (& sometimes county to county) all over the US as each state makes it’s own laws regarding encryption.

Watch our Police Scanner Encryption Tutorial to learn more.



verb (transitive)

to put (a message) into code

to put (computer data) into a coded form

to distort (a television or other signal) so that it cannot be understood without the appropriate decryption equipment

In this article we’ll show you:

Types of Encryption
Arguments For & Against Encryption
Encryption FAQ
Areas Affected by Encryption

Types of Encrypted Police Communication

Police Scanner Encryption

Tactical Encryption

Tactical channels, such as communication channels that involve drug enforcement, gang enforcement, stakeout & SWAT are encrypted. Almost every state has some form of tactical encryption.

Full Encryption

Some areas encrypt all radio communication so nothing can be heard by the public including tactical & all day-to-day communication.

Arguments For & Against Encryption of Police Communication

for or against police scanner encryption

Reasons to Not Encrypt Police Communication

1st Amendment

Government transparency

Citizens & media oversight

To allow citizens & off-duty public safety personnel to respond to emergencies

Backup & neighboring police officers receive delayed information

Inhibits the media’s ability to accurately report news in real time & inform citizens

Reasons to Encrypt Police Communication

Safety of law enforcement

Criminals monitor communication to avoid police

Police Communication Encryption FAQ

Police Scanner Encryption Explained FAQ

Can I monitor encrypted signals?

No. This is illegal & no police scanner (that the public can purchase) can monitor encrypted signals.

Is encryption the end of scanning?

No. Even in areas where there is full encryption such as Washington D.C. there is still a lot to listen to including non-encrypted police, fire, EMS, businesses, air traffic, NASCAR, NOAA, businesses & more.

Where can I read more about encryption?

There are countless local articles & local news segments regrading police encryption, but here are some of the best articles that address the issues surrounding police encryption:

Police Radio Encryption: Not Secure, A transparency Failure, A Public Safety Nightmare

More Police Departments Look to Tune Public Out

› Should Police Scanners Be Public?

› Will the Boston Bombings Kill the Public Police Scanner?

› Police Scanner Encryption Lawsuit Filed

› Police Radio to go Silent as Toronto Cops Move Toward Encrypted Communications

Encryption is being debated in my area; what can I do to stop it?

Contact your legislator

Start an opposition group

How do I find out if what I want to listen to is encrypted?

› Radio Reference has the most accurate database & you can search for your area.

States With Some Form of Full Police Encryption (in orange)

Police Scanner Encryption Explained

What Do You Think?

Have an update? Please leave a note in the comment section or ask us & we’ll update accordingly. Accurate information is hard to find on encryption. Example: Las Vegas County Police signals were encrypted for a few years & now are back to unencrypted.

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