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EXCLUSIVE: Arlington County Police Encrypt More Radio Channels

The Arlington County Police Department has quietly removed more of its radio channels from public monitoring.

Without a public announcement, ACPD started to encrypt two of its main radio channels for police communication earlier this month. A department spokesperson confirmed the move after inquiries from ARLnow, saying it’s part of a regional plan.

“As of March 1, 2021, Arlington County finalized adoption of the National Capital Region (NCR) Interoperable Encryption Plan,” said ACPD’s Ashley Savage. “In our primary radio zone, the adoption resulted in further encrypting the administrative channel, 1E, to protect the personal and confidential information of members of the public interacting with law enforcement as well [as] encrypting our last talk around channel, 1C, for tactical and operational security reasons.”

The “talk around” channel is used by officers at the scene of an incident to communicate with one another, and to relay updates to Arlington’s Emergency Communications Center. Monitoring it allowed hobbyists and news media to better understand what was happening during significant police incidents.

For the media, it also allowed more informed decisions about whether to send reporters and photographers to certain potential stories, and would sometimes help with formulating more targeted questions to ask of a police spokesperson or witnesses. Without it, reporters for broadcast stations and other outlets, including ARLnow, will be more dependent on official statements from police, which can lack key details, or accounts from witnesses, which can be hard to obtain and verify.

ACPD said that it will keep its main dispatch channel unencrypted, which will allow the public and media outlets to hear police dispatches and some initial communication between officers on scene and dispatchers. The department also highlighted the other official means by which it posts information, like a daily crime report on weekdays.

“The police department remains committed to transparency and our primary radio channel, 1A, where calls for service are dispatched, remains unencrypted,” said Savage. “The department also shares information related to criminal incidents through the Daily Crime Report, Online Crime Map, Open Data Portal and press releases. We also use Arlington Alert to provide emergency notifications in the event of a public safety threat to the community.”

ARLnow reported exclusively last summer — as a wave of protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd swept the country — that ACPD was considering encrypting more channels.

At the time, the local branch of the NAACP expressed concerns about police transparency. Since then, the department has implemented a body-worn camera system and participated in a county-run examination of police practices. The final police practices report made no mention of police radios or encryption.

File photo

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It is the decision of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) to implement the Proposed Action: the 2024 Pentagon Reservation Master Plan Update (Pentagon Master Plan) as the framework to guide future decisions regarding land use and infrastructure at the Pentagon site and Mark Center. The Pentagon Master Plan aims to provide an update to the existing conditions at the Pentagon and Mark Center and presents projects and revisions to land use categorizations that will address the specific needs to reduce the Pentagon’s environmental impacts and advance sustainability, security, and resilience. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review has been completed through preparation of a Final Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate environmental impacts arising from implementation of the projects. WHS has concluded that no significant impacts to the human or natural environment will result from implementation of any projects, and recognized negative effects will be reduced by adherence to standard best management practices, applicable permit and consultation conditions, and standard operating procedures. This decision is further documented in the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) signed on March 20, 2024.

This notice announces the availability of the FONSI to implement the 2024 Pentagon Reservation Master Plan Update.

For further information and to request a copy of the Final EA or FONSI, please contact Brian King, Environmental and Sustainability Program Manager, WHS/Facilities Services Directorate/Standards and Compliance Division/Environmental and Sustainability Branch; (703-614-3658 or [email protected]). Please include “Pentagon Master Plan Final EA and FONSI” in the subject line.

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Arlington has made substantial strides in advancing housing equity and improving fair housing policy with the adoption of the Regional Fair Housing Plan in 2023. Come learn what’s next to fight housing discrimination, incorporate equity for marginalized populations in our housing policies and programs, and increase awareness of fair housing rights under state and federal law.

We’ll have updates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing federal rule, a panel discussion of fair housing progress at the General Assembly and across Virginia, and a panel of local experts discussing the progress Arlington has made and what remains to be done.
Please RSVP in advance to ensure you receive your free lunch at the conference. Free and open to the public.

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