Council chair: Media access to emergency scanners a matter of public safety

City Council Chair Tommy Waters wants to restore the news media’s ability to listen in when first responders are called to emergencies.
Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 5:15 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2022 at 6:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - City Council Chair Tommy Waters wants to restore the news media’s ability to listen in when first responders are called to emergencies.

He considers it important to public safety.

“For the news media to have access to this so that they can report to the rest of society what’s going on. I think that’s really, really important,” Waters said.

Honolulu completed the $15 million overhaul that changed the scanner system from analog to digital, encrypting the frequencies for police, fire and EMS calls.

While it helps with communication for all the first responder agencies, media outlets were cut off and forced to rely on other ways of getting the information.

Rade Vanic, interim chief of the Honolulu Police Department, promised the police commission that HPD is working on a system to inform the news when appropriate.

“Emails that will notify the media when there are certain types of cases such as homicides, robberies and missing persons,” Vanic told the commission, one day after the switch over was complete.

But the Excel page emailed to the outlets last week provided few details and failed to mention the first incident on the list was a homicide.

It was the brutal beating of a homeless woman on the doorstep of the Kapolei police station.

The email also did not get to HNN’s inbox until the day after the incident.

Vanic told the commission that was not supposed to happen. “Normally it would have gone to the media but in this particular incident it didn’t,” he said.

Vanic said they were working to fix the problems.

Waters said he doesn’t believe the mistake was intentional but does believe the council can take action.

HNN’s sister station in Las Vegas was provided the encrypted scanners from their police department.

Councilman Waters believes HPD should do that, too.

“I hope the work in progress means they’re going to give you the encryption key because emails are not going to work to me, they’re not sufficient,” Waters said.

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