Real time information that’s uncensored from Jacksonville police will no longer be available to anyone.
Six years ago police radios went over to an encrypted frequency. When that change happened the media was allowed to tap into that so we could keep you in the know.
There’s several ways this policy decision will impact you. On one end, it’ll impact our ability to report traffic. We will now become reliant on an EARS alert from JSO as opposed to hearing it in real time.
“A perfect example is last Thursday where between 5 and noon we had in excess of 20 crashes,” says Coty White in WOKV’s traffic department, “at one point we had one side of the Arlington expressway closed, we never got an EARS broadcast for that.”
The Emergency Alert Response System is, at times, inconsistent. There are times when we get an alert to lane closures or even a homicide call out hours after we hear it happen on the scanners, other times we don’t get an alert. On Wednesday we’ll outline more on this system that is supposed to take the place of the radios.
Other ways you’ll be impacted; consider the fact that right now journalists in newsrooms across Jacksonville listen in to the radio traffic and work to get that information confirmed and report what is going on in your neighborhood to you. You have dozens of people keeping an eye out on what’s going on around you.
We do have access to police reports and those come out usually a day after they are written. In many cases those reports have redacted information so we don’t see the entire picture.
Trends, like a string of break-ins in your neighborhood, that sort of information may have to wait.
We talked to groups who work alongside JSO and the media regularly.
Donald Foy head of the Jacksonville chapter of MAD DADS says, “I think it’s critical the media is involved so we can get the message out.”
Ann Dugger with the Justice Coalition, a victim advocate says her concerns are over accuracy at scenes.
“Many times the left hand hasn’t had enough time to convey the information the right hand has,” says Dugger, “and the media gathering information that is a little haphazard because they haven’t gotten the complete story.”
Is the issue of accuracy because of police radios or does that fall on the reporting? Ken Jefferson a former public information officer with JSO says there’s some shared blame for that.
“If the media was talking to a person that had no knowledge or real information about what was going on, it would be the responsibility of the sheriff’s office to correct that report,” says Jefferson.
Rich Hanley an associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University says if there’s something wrong with the reporting that’s a different issue and shouldn’t result in radios being revoked.
“The punishment shouldn’t be directed at the news media as a whole,” says Hanley, “it should be directed at the individuals who have committed any sort of transgressions against public decency or public responsibility.”
On Wednesday we’ll go over the reasons provided by Sheriff Rutherford as to why the radios are being taken back.