In a move that had been anticipated for weeks but is no less debilitating, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office removed police scanners from local newsrooms last week.
In announcing their decision to remove the scanners back in July, the police department cited their own budgetary considerations. But many feel that it was done in an effort to limit the media’s access to police communications.
For the past several years, Jacksonville media outlets have rented scanners from the police department. According to The Florida Times-Union, local news agencies would rent the $4,600 Motorola radios, with special encrypted frequencies, for about $70 each per month.
But the police department says that it can’t afford to purchase new radios for its own staff so its pulling those from local newsrooms.
“The Sheriff’s Office position that this policy change was for budgetary reasons really doesn’t wash,” Times-Union editor Frank M. Denton said, following the initial announcement, “since we pay for use of the scanners now and are willing to pay their full cost.”
In the absence of scanners, Jacksonville stations are asking local residents for help in reporting crime as it happens.
“Without the scanners, we will be relying more heavily on you to let us know what is happening in your neighborhood,” WJXX-WTLV told viewers last week. And WJXT is urging residents to share photos and video on the station’s Facebook page.
Here’s a WJXX-WTLV report on the Sheriff’s Office announcement in July…