FRANKLIN COUNTY (KFSM) — The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office recently switched police radios over to a private channel, so only personnel can hear them. Sheriff Anthony Boen is defending the decision, but some say it’s a transparency issue.
“The only thing different is no one will be able to hear if we run someone's criminal history or whose house we're going to next or what we're doing,” Sheriff Boen said. “They won't be able to pick that up.”
The sheriff said with the general public having access to police scanner traffic, this often tips off suspects, including child predators. He said switching over to a private channel about a week ago was vital to prevent this from happening.
“That was kind of what pushed us to the point that we decided it's officer safety that we needed to do something,” Boen said.
Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen said he sees several transparency issues with the new system.
“I think the public has the right to monitor routine dispatch and patrol talk,” McCutchen said. “If there is sensitive information or a deputy's going to be in danger, then there's encrypted messages that can be used. There's cell phones.”
Sheriff Boen said there are also security concerns with volunteer fire departments listening in because they are not required to do background checks.
“I think it's a red herring,” McCutchen rebutted. “I think that if we've got volunteer firefighters who we don't know their backgrounds, then we need to get laws passed.”
Boen emphasized they are not the only agency in the area experiencing this issue.
A public meeting is being held Tuesday (May 30) at 7 p.m. at the Franklin County Emergency Management Office to answer any questions and concerns about the change.