Police radio used by car thief, union leader says

Source: The Examiner

A thwarted attempt to catch a car thief in Launceston has confirmed that the Tasmania Police digital radio network is insecure, a union leader has warned.

But police command said it was “tenuous” to suggest a link between the failed road spike operation and access to the digital channel.

Police Association of Tasmania president Pat Allen said a car thief evaded road spikes on Thursday after officers confirmed to colleagues via digital radio that they were deploying the spikes.

“Before the car had even sighted the police vehicle, the offenders stopped and went the other way,” Constable Allen said.

“They had no idea there was a police car up ahead, except when the call went out over the air.

“The police involved in that have no doubt they were actually scanning.”

Constable Allen said members had suspected for some time that other people could access the digital network.

Constable Allen said members used their own mobile phones to combat safety and privacy concerns with people accessing police radio.

He said people scanning police radio was nothing new, but was a problem which should have been addressed by now.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Richard Cowling said scanning of the police radio network was not illegal, but there were privacy issues and the disclosure of some information might be unlawful.

“It is tenuous to suggest the outcome of a road spike operation was impacted by access to information from the digital channel,” Mr Cowling said.

“The Tasmania Police Digital Upgrade Project is in the final stages of completion, with some technical issues to be resolved prior to final network testing.”

Mr Cowling said police could also use mobile data terminals, or in Kingston Division the new tablet devices, to do secure background, registration and licence checks online.

Opposition police spokeswoman Elise Archer said she was concerned about reports that police radio was now being streamed live over the internet for anyone to listen to.

Union leader Pat Allen claims criminals are scanning police radio channels to get the drop on officers.

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