St. Louis Police Encrypt Radio After Protests

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The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has encrypted its radio transmissions after unrest following the fatal shooting of a black man in the southern part of the city that reignited racial tensions in the wake of a controversial police shooting in the nearby suburb of Ferguson.

The department said Friday that it encrypted its radio band after “tactical information being relayed to officers” was broadcast by others on social media, putting police at risk. There were tense protests in the city’s Shaw neighborhood Thursday night and Friday morning after an off-duty police officer shot and killed Vonderrit Myers, 18, on Wednesday night.

That shooting is very different than the Ferguson Police shooting that ended in the death of unarmed teen Michael Brown on Aug. 9, which sparked weeks of protests and violent unrest in that suburb. In Wednesday’s shooting, police said Myers was armed with a 9mm handgun and shot at the officer three times, who then returned fire with deadly results. In protests after Myers’ death, protesters burned an American flag, struck an officer in the arm with a brick and damaged police vehicles, and police used pepper spray on crowds and made eight arrests, police said.

A police spokesman said the department had been talking about encrypting its radio transmissions for months, before Brown's death, but took the move after protesters used scanner traffic to evade containment lines Thursday.

“With recent events of unrest in our city and around the region, the decision to encrypt the department’s radio communication system is paramount to ensuring the safety of the 1,300 officers of this department, as well as the citizens we serve,” St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson said in a release.



— Phil Helsel