How long should the community have to wait to learn about public safety concerns?
Monday evening a suspect, who broke into an Anchorage home on Linda Lane that morning and shot the homeowner, was still at large.
“I have a family. I have two kids and a wife, and the first thing on my mind is their safety,” said Greg Caldwell. He says home invasions aren’t common in the neighborhood and had he known a potentially armed man was on the loose and avoiding police, he wouldn’t have left his family home alone.
“He could be in my back yard,” Caldwell said. “He could be in any of these people’s backyards.”
Just three days after Anchorage officials announced they were encrypting all public safety communications, for both the Anchorage Police Department and the Anchorage Fire Departments scanner feeds, keeping the public and media from hearing when and where they’re responding to emergencies, APD waited 11 hours before releasing any information about the public safety threat to Caldwell’s neighborhood.
APD said they responded about 2 a.m. on Monday — the Nixle was released at 12:53 p.m.
Municipal Manager Mike Abbott says they cut off access to the scanners for the safety of officers, they don’t want criminals listening in to ambush them. They also want to protect the privacy of victims of crimes and patients, as their personal information is sometimes shared through scanner traffic.
In the past, KTVA would have heard about the intruder and sent a crew to the neighborhood. And after confirming information with police, we would have warned residents about the threat right away.
When asked how long the public should have to wait to know that there’s a threat to their safety, Abbott responded: “I don’t know.” When pushed, he continued, “I think the decision the Municipality has taken is the one that balances best the public’s interest in having a successful public safety system, one that both protects the confidentially of patients and victims, and protects its officers and the integrity of criminal investigations.”
Many people KTVA spoke to disagree, including Jacki Mathis, who helps run the “Anchorage Scanner Joe” page on Facebook.
“It’s being downplayed as, ‘Oh, it’s ok, you’re still safe,’ but we don’t feel safe, so it’s not helping transparency.”
“If there’s a way where both sides, the police department and the news crews, can work together, that would be great, but in this situation like this, it shouldn’t be eight to ten hours later that you find out about something and then you find out from an email thread and not through the news,” said Caldwell.
Below is the entire interview between Anchorage Municipal Manager Mike Abbott and KTVA’s Daniella Rivera.
KTVA, as well as other local news organizations, have requested the municipality give media access to the encrypted scanner feeds.
KTVA News Director Bert Rudman released this statement: “KTVA strongly objects to the municipal manager’s decision to keep public safety radio communications away from the public. The move has a chilling effect on our ability to deliver timely information to our viewers and readers. Moreover, we cannot deliver on our time-honored promise to be an effective watchdog of our public employees if we are limited to carefully edited press releases, sometimes sent hours after incidents involving public safety occur. We will continue to try to push the Municipality of Anchorage to do what dozens of police and fire departments around the country do to ensure transparency: Accredited news gathering operations should be given access to encryption codes. This would ensure the bad guys can’t monitor police tactics but that, on your behalf, reporters can monitor how your tax dollars are being spent.”
The post How long should the community have to wait to learn about public safety concerns? appeared first on KTVA 11.