Archive for Monday, August 22, 2011

Twitter accounts that monitor police scanners keep people in the know

August 22, 2011


Michael Mikkelsen, a 29-year-old political activist from Kansas City, Mo., doesn’t support drunken driving. But he’s strongly against police DUI checkpoints, which he says violate drivers’ constitutional rights.

Mikkelson’s taken his mission to Twitter, tweeting out checkpoint locations and getting tips from other Twitter users about checkpoint spots. Sometimes he tweets out the link to a live stream he sets up to monitor checkpoints.

Mikkelsen, who has more than 400 followers, is one of several local Twitter users monitoring police, fire and emergency service activities online.

Other local Twitter users, such as @KansasScanner and @Operation100, send out frequent Twitter updates from what they overhear on emergency dispatch scanners; everything from auto accidents to fires to police chases.

“It keeps the community informed,” said Mike Frizzell, known in the Twitter sphere as @Operation100. Frizzell, 25, has been listening to police scanners since he was 13.

“I’ve always been fascinated by it,” said Frizzell, who has more than 1,500 followers.

At his home in Shawnee, Frizzell has six scanners, which he uses to monitor several area counties. The hobby has also turned into a full-time job, as he contracts with several news organizations, including the Journal-World, providing information about accidents, fires and crime incidents overnight.

Twitter users such as Frizzell can fill the gaps between what happens on the street and what ends up on the news, but it’s important to note that the information is preliminary and not always accurate, said University of Missouri professor Jen Reeves.

Reeves cited an incident in Columbia, Mo., where a Twitter user sent out an erroneous tweet that there was a gunman loose on the Missouri campus.

That’s why news outlets must keep up, she said.

“It’s our job (as journalists) to be prominent enough (on Twitter) to say ‘slow down,’” Reeves said.

Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Tom Erickson said his office hasn’t run into any problems with Twitter users who monitor the scanners. In the cases where a suspect might gain an advantage by hearing what’s on the scanner, police have several secure channels to switch to, he said.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office may also begin sending out their own tweets about emergency calls, similar to what some other larger law enforcement agencies, such as the Wichita Police Department, are already doing.


verity 6 years, 5 months ago

The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that a properly devised DUI checkpoint program is constitutional and does not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. (Michigan v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444, 1990).

"Properly devised" being the key words here.

There is, of course, still a lot of controversy regarding whether these checkpoints infringe on Fourth Amendment rights. Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have all passed laws to prohibit DUI checkpoints.

In my opinion, if Mikkelsen doesn't agree with the checkpoints, he should lobby to get a law passed against them rather than trying to circumvent the law as he is doing.

kccheckpoint 6 years, 5 months ago

Picketing checkpoints is a lobby he is able to perform because of the constitution (1st) and how he chooses to lobby his government and the people is a choice he can make. @kccheckpoint applauds the work of @mmikkelsen and others who stand up against infringement of our constitutional rights. (4th and 5th) Rest assured, the US Supreme Court did NOT intend for PDs across the country to have checkpoints every single weekend stopping THOUSANDS of citizens without cause and asking them questions that exceed probable cause. (to create probable cause) This issue will arise in the court system again, just wait.

Moreover, checkpoints infringe on our rights and are not even a good solution to the DUI problem. DUI checkpoints have NOTING to do with safety and EVERYTHING to do with money for local governments. Let's change the focus from 20-30 person manned checkpoints to real police work.

I suggest we find police work that is inside as most of the agencies this weekend were too sacred to continue their "very important" checkpoints once the rain started. Man-up fellas!

verity 6 years, 5 months ago

I don't see anything in the article about Mikkelsen picketing the checkpoints. I was not making a statement about the constitutionality of the checkpoints as reasonable people could take either side of that argument, or whether checkpoints are a good idea. I am making a statement that I feel what he---and apparently you from your previous comments---are doing is trying to circumvent the law rather than change it and that is where I have a problem. I'm also not sure what you hope to accomplish by what you are doing. If you think what they're doing is illegal, contact the ACLU or some other civil rights organization.

I would support an anti-checkpoint law I. F. included were much stricter penalties on people who DUI---such as first offense take away driver's license for one year, 2nd impound car, 3rd mandatory six months in prison---at the very least. Are you with me on that?

true_patriot 6 years ago

Does that mean you support government surveilance into moving vehicles and checkpoints to pull people out of line that were texting or talking on their cellphones?

I would assume so, since simply talking while driving is equal to or greater to the impairment of driving while drunk and texting while driving is approximately four times more distracting than driving while drunk.

To me checkpoints belong with martial law (extreme emergencies) and not every day life - it's an unreasonable search based on no probable cause and it violates the founding principle of innocent until proven guilty. Once we start saying "well but it helps reduce drunk driving" then it's a slippery slope from there to all kinds of other reasons to bend the constitution. Get cell phones away from drivers' ears and especially their fingers and you will prevent far more deaths and injuries than using checkpoints to catch drunk drivers.

ohjayhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

I was always under the impression that listening to scanner traffic was ok, as long as you didn't pass along any of the info that you heard while listening? I thought that at least some states had laws against disseminating that type of stuff.

Shaun Hittle 6 years, 5 months ago

I've never heard anything like that. As a news organization we routinely do it. It's public, as far as I've ever know...

Shaun Hittle LJW Reporter

Mike Frizzell 6 years, 5 months ago

I have come into contact with Police on countless occasions when I have been carrying at least one scanner around. The worst that has happened to me is an officer asked to hold the scanner while he checked my name for warrants. After my name came back clear, he handed the scanner back and sent me on my way.

I cannot speak for others but, I always delay my tweets until Police have arrived on the scene of whatever it is before I share it. I am sure a person could be charged criminally if they were found to be assisting someone who was in the process of committing a crime or attempting to flee from Law Enforcement.

Just like mentioned in the story, Police have encrypted communication, cell phones and "push to talk" technology. All of which it is illegal to monitor. Police use encryption more then most people might think, especially in Johnson County with the P25 digital radio system.

Police use scanners as well. A scanner monitoring a neighboring agency is going to keep an officer on patrols up to date with what may be coming his/her way.

ohjayhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

I realize this is Wikipedia, and there are citations needed for this section. I will try to dig some more and find a reliable site that mentions it, but the last point of this section is what I've always heard.

In the United States, the general guidelines[clarification needed] to follow when using a radio scanner are that it is illegal to:[citation needed] listen in on cellular and cordless phone calls intercept encrypted or scrambled communications sell or import radio scanners that are capable of receiving cellular phone frequencies (this rule does not apply to sales by individuals[citation needed] and radio scanners made before the ban) modify radio scanners so that cellular phone frequencies can be received use information received for personal gain (a common example is where a taxi driver listens to a competitor's dispatch channel to steal a customer) use information received to aid in the commission of a crime *disclose information received to other persons

goodcountrypeople 6 years, 5 months ago

I don't know about tweeting checkpoints. Please do not drive and drink for the safety of everyone involved. I totally agree with photographing via phones or video police misconduct though and see the attempts to outlaw this as criminal in themselves.

Evan Ridenour 6 years, 5 months ago

I will say that I think that if the police in Lawrence really wanted to catch people driving drunk they would place check points every weekend night for cars leaving Mass St and on KU game days.

At the rate people currently drink and drive they would catch hundreds. As it is, the current check points they run they get on average like 3-5 DUI arrests... hardly a good result when you figure they are paying 20-40 police officers for several hours of work to run it.

Get rid of the check points or actually place them where everyone knows people are drinking and driving. The current effort is just a waste of money.

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