“This was the call he’d been waiting for. The controller had just dispatched an armed response unit to an alarm activation at the High Street bank. Thankfully, listening to the police radio broadcasts allowed the award-winning investigative journalist and crime reporter to get to police incidents as they unfolded rather than at some pre-arranged police briefing hours after the event.”
I remember when as a kid, I had a very large portable radio with multiple bands on it. I would often lie in bed at night and tune in to listen to police radio chatter. It was fun trying to determine who I was listening to and on a few occasions, I even managed to locate the police patrolling around my area.
When I joined the police, I knew from personal experience why people such as reporters were often on the scene of a crime or an accident about the same time that I arrived. They either listened to police broadcasts on their wireless radio or scanner. It was hard in those days to have secrets or to keep them for very long.
Most of the times, things were in the public interest with nothing to hide. However, there was always that element who sought to exploit the technology of the day for their own ends i.e. the commission of crime.
Thankfully, today in the UK, it is not possible for Joe public to listen to police broadcasts. All radio transmissions are digital, over a secure Airwave network. The only way to listen to what is being said, is either to possess a stolen police radio, which won’t stay usable for long after it is reported lost or stolen or to overhear a police officer or PCSO using or listening to their own radio.
The UK is unlike the U.S., where many police transmissions are unencrypted and the use of even a cheap radio scanner will allow anyone to listen into police chatter as it happens.
So, think twice if you want to include police radio conversations or information from them in your UK-based stories.
Also be very mindful that the contract between the police and Airwave is due to end around April 2016 and as yet there is no known alternative service provider or replacement police technology. As things look, the way the police communicate after April 2016 may change significantly. Read the following article for more information – Police radios to be killed off