Minneapolis Police Preparing For Encryption

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Minneapolis Police Radio Encryption May Be On Horizon

The Minneapolis Police Department has resisted the urge to enable two-way radio encryption over the last few years despite many departments moving in that direction. In 2019, Minneapolis police spokesperson John Elder said, “We have no intention of going to encryption. We don’t see the need.” However, things may be heading in a different direction.

In a City of Minneapolis document titled “RAD02 Radio Improvements”, the city outlines the need for an additional $1.9 million in funding to purchase additional encryption-capable radios.

“The project will replace the remaining public safety radio system subscriber radios that have not been funded for replacement yet. This is needed to stay compliant and compatible with the City’s statewide partners who collectively own and operate the Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response (ARMER) system. This covers the portables, mobiles, and backup base units needed to be updated. All police radios will have the ability to support encrypted channels and support encrypted interoperable law enforcement talk groups across law enforcement agencies.”

RAD02 Radio Improvements Project Description, City of Minneapolis

Further detailed in this city document is some important language. “An unexpected cost associated with new portable radios for MPD was the purchase of encryption capabilities, as MPD plans to add some level of encrypted dispatch capabilities across all MPD radios.”

What does that mean for the future of monitoring Minneapolis police dispatch talkgroups? That’s hard to say. We don’t know to what extent encryption will be used. It could be used sparingly when needed or could be enabled full-time. We just don’t know. However, the fact that the document mentions encrypted dispatch explicitly is concerning.

The document estimates it will take three years to complete the transition to the new radios — so we could see encryption arriving on Minneapolis police ARMER talkgroups by late 2023 or early 2024.

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