The public will lose access to Scott County’s law enforcement dispatches starting next week, the Scott County Sheriff’s Office confirmed today.

Scott County Sheriff Luke Hennen’s plan to encrypt radio transmissions for all general law enforcement dispatches will take effect Monday, Feb. 22, according to a Facebook post by the sheriff’s office.

The switch to encryption means the general public will no longer be able to hear police incidents unfold through handheld scanners, scanner applications and websites such as Broadcastify.

Fire department dispatches will not become encrypted.

Local officials used federal aid, intended to provide relief for expenses directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, on expediting the switch the encryption. Encrypted radios were purchased with Coronavirus Relief Aid in Scott County, and the cities of Jordan, Belle Plaine and Savage.

“The encryption of law enforcement radio transmissions will not change our commitment to transparency and sharing of public information,” the sheriff’s office posted on social media Friday. “Our office will continue to communicate public information through traditional media sources, social media outlets, our public website and online community crime map.”

Law enforcement officials who advocate for encryption say keeping dispatches off the air protects officers, upholds victim privacy and prevents someone from listening to police while committing a crime.

Critics of encryption say transparency and public accountability serve the public, and that encryption ends a longstanding, essential news-gathering practice of responding to an incident firsthand.