Is police scanner traffic public record?

I went to lunch with a friend today and he was telling me all about his police scanner, which never leaves his side. I hear scanner traffic all day long in the newsroom where I work, but there are two things I don’t know about that kind of communication:

  • Do government agencies record scanner traffic?
  • If so, is old scanner traffic public record?

As a public records geek, I’m ashamed that I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I’m determined to find out. I found an article on RTDNA’s Web site (Radio Television Digital News Association), which talks about it a little bit.

Writer Kathleen Kirby says: “Many electronic journalists wrongly assume that FCC rules require police, fire and rescue transmissions to be open. That is simply not the case. There are no federal rules that provide a general right of the news media or others to monitor police and fire or other public safety radio communications.”

Very interesting! I need to dig deeper into this. In the time being, if anyone out there knows more about this topic than I do, feel free to share in the comments section below.


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