A PLAN TO SCAN: Scanners monitoring protector services still common in area

Keri Thornton | Daily Press

Cherokee County Sheriff's Deputy Porter Neel listened in on some calls while at the courthouse Friday morning.

It's not uncommon for residents of any community to own a scanner so they can monitor what's going on in the local community of "protectors" - law enforcement, fire departments and EMS services.

Cherokee County Sheriff Jason Chennault said it's not illegal for regular citizens to have police scanners, unless that person is a convicted felon.

"They can monitor our frequency. We changed our radio system in the past year and we went from our old system to a new digital system," said Chennault.

The digital system offers law enforcement personnel better reception, since there are outlying areas where the older radios wouldn't transmit.

"This is a better system, and it's stronger and more powerful. The people who before were able to monitor us on scanners, had to change their scanners and had to go to a digital scanner," said Chennault.

While digital scanners are more expensive than citizen band radios, Chennault said it wasn't uncommon for scanners to be in private households years ago.

"I remember 20 years ago, being in someone's house and keying my radio up, and we could hear ourselves in the corner because someone would have a scanner. I guess it was something people liked to listen to, and I think it's less prevalent now, just because the equipment is more expensive," said Chennault.

Newspaper offices still have such scanners, and back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Don Betz, who was then a professor and later a vice president at Northeastern State University, owned one. Betz, who later became NSU president, often called the Tahlequah Daily Press to report things he'd heard on the scanner.

Digital scanners can still be purchased off Amazon, Radio Shack and at Jerry's Radio Communications, a locally owned business.

"You can take those to different places and have those programmed," said Chennault.

Dispatchers are the ones responsible for calling out to officers, deputies, firefighters, and paramedics via the scanner. Chennault said the most common transmission dispatchers make involves sending deputies to a call.

"Since we've had the GEO Safe System, our radio traffic is a lot less than it used to be, because when the dispatcher puts the information into a computer in the 911 Center, it comes directly to us on our iPads and computers in our vehicles," the sheriff said.

There are various reasons why an individual would like to have a police scanner on hand. Willard Parish stopped by Jerry's Radio Communications Friday afternoon to look for a handheld scanner.

"The reason I bought a scanner is because my daughter is a deputy out in the county, and if she was out and close to where I was and she got in a bind, I would know where she was and I could go to her," said Parish.

Michael McQueen, admin for Tahlequah Area Traffic, said he has a scanner because his stepdad was a retired, disabled deputy sheriff.

"I got used to hearing it and I got to know what was going on around me," he said.

McQueen would then post warnings on social media about emergency calls to keep people out of the way of emergency vehicles.

"Friends I had who were firefighters started telling me they appreciated the fact that I'm getting the word out to avoid areas where emergency vehicles were en route to. I was told they had seen a difference in traffic," said McQueen.

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