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Letter: Lexington’s Radio Encryption

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SHERIFF CANDIDATES SHOULD ADDRESS LACK OF TRANSPARENCY, ADDED COST OF ENCRYPTION

Dear Editor;

For many reading this letter this topic is going to seem very esoteric and maybe even a little hard to follow.  I will do my best to attempt to explain it in manner that everyone can understand.

In relation to the Lexington County (S.C.) Sheriff’s race, I’ve yet to see any candidate address or any questions posed at the debates addressing the question of the full time encryption utilized on all Lexington County Sheriff’s Department (LCSD) radio channels.  LCSD went to full time encryption in 1999 and many people proposed that it would be much easier to conduct “illegal or immoral operations” since even routine communications are not able to be monitored by the public.

While encryption may be necessary on some channels such as those use to conduct SWAT Operations, or sensitive investigations there is little reason to encrypt dispatch channels and daily operations.  Many citizens own radio scanning equipment in order to maintain situational awareness and in the days when news outlets used to report breaking news rather than just waiting on a press release from the Ministry of Propaganda to read on air or publish in print most news rooms contained many scanners monitoring communications around their area.

In addition to denying citizens and outlet for local information and reducing the collective situational awareness of the community there is a monetary cost to encrypting the communications.  It cost the agencies $5.00 per radio per month for encryption service under the Palmetto 800 System and expensive encryption modules must be purchased for each radio.  As an example an APX-7000 portable radio from Motorola lists $3,834.00 for the basic radio and the encryption module and options needed to make the encryption work are additional $1603.50 per radio purchased.

(Note: Example equipment and option prices are taken from Wyoming’s state radio contract.  South Carolina-specific prices aren’t readily available however they should be similar).

No local public safety agency utilizes full time encryption on all channels with the exception of the University of South Carolina police department and LCSD.

The citizens of Lexington County deserve to know the position of each candidate on this issue.  Full time encryption is expensive, unnecessary, and reduces citizen oversight of an agency that has been shown to have at least some corruption issues.

Sincerely,

Radio Linked Citizen

SIC SEZ

will folks david asiamah

RLC: Very nicely done. You took a dense subject and made it easily understandable.  

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