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NYPD brass discusses social media use, radio encryption at budget hearing

NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban agreed that NYPD officers must ensure that social media posts are accurate after a patrol chief misidentified a judge in a post on X


Howard Simmons

By Rocco Parascandola
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — The NYPD pushed back Wednesday against criticism of how it uses social media — calling it critical to giving information to the public — even as a chief testified that the department will soon encrypt all its radio transmissions.

“I do think it’s actually very important for the department to get its message out there,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Michael Gerber.

“We are a very important stakeholder in the criminal justice system,” he added. “Maybe a decade ago this would have been done via a press conference or an interview but in 2024, one very important way to communicate with the public is through social media.”

Gerber was responding to questions from Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (D-Queens) at a hearing to discuss the proposed $5.75 billion budget for the NYPD for the next fiscal year.

She voiced concern about a recent move by the NYPD to more forcefully call out critics and members of the media, as well as others in the criminal justice system it believes are not acting in the best interest of public safety.

Adams described as “very harmful” instances in which wrong information is posted, as was the case when Chief of Patrol John Chell apologized on March 1 for an X post in which he misidentified the Bronx judge who released a serial subway pickpocket suspect after a prosecutor asked for bail.

Her questions about who vets social media postings went unanswered, though the NYPD’s top spokesman, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Tarik Sheppard, has previously said he and those who work for him have that responsibility.

“It is imperative,” Adams said, “that if nobody gets this right, the Police Department gets it right.”

Police Commissioner Edward Caban agreed with Adams, saying the NYPD has “to be more careful and responsible in what we post.”

The speaker also raised concerns about NYPD’s plan to encrypt its radio transmissions — which would cut off media access to breaking news events.

Caban previously said the department is trying to figure out how the media could still have access to the transmissions in some way, such as on a delayed basis, as other police departments have done.

That plan has still not been hammered out, NYPD Chief of Information Ruben Beltran testified, with the department likely to have its radio system encrypted citywide by the first few months of 2025.

Police critics and media advocates have pushed back against the plan as harmful to news coverage about crime, but Beltran said the move is being made to protect the privacy of some victims and out of concern for officer safety.

He said that over the past five years, there have been more than 180 arrests of people in possession of police radios, including two incidents involving member of the Trinitarios gang.

“From an operation perspective, I think we have a really compelling case to limit or restrict access to police radios,” Beltran testified.

The hearing was interrupted seven times by protesters who got everyone’s attention by squeezing toy rubber ducks, then yelling out about overtime and how protests are policed, among other issues.

The protesters were removed from the hearing, with Public Safety Chair Yusef Salaam (D- Manhattan ) imploring those in attendance to be respectful.

Caban greeted Salaam, who recently complained about being subject to a police stop in his Harlem district, with a handshake before the hearing started and hugged him afterward.

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