Minneapolis PD admits to recently disabling cell phones

The Minneapolis Police Department likely disabled the cell phones of the two protesters rappelling from the ceiling of U.S. Bank Stadium on January 1.

Unconfirmed scanner reports mentioned police disabling the protesters’ phones so they would only take calls from negotiators. While the Minneapolis Police Department would not confirm the disabling, the officials sent a statement to Fox 9 on Monday saying: “This technique was used twice in the past three years.  This involved extreme circumstances where a person’s safety was in immediate danger.”

During the protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline, one protester spoke over the phone with two Fox 9 reporters.

Fox 9 asked major cell phone companies for their internal policies dealing with requests from law enforcement. Sprint and Verizon suggested contacting their industry organization, CTIA. CTIA referred Fox 9 to the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC.

Back in 2012, the FCC posted a public notice for comment on “issues related to the intentional interruptions of Commercial Mobile Radio Service…by government authorities for the purpose of ensuring public safety.” The notice mentioned a phone “could be used to trigger the detonation of an explosive device.”

The notice also mentioned the controversial actions take by the Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority to disable cell service to certain areas in anticipation of protests. The 2011 shutdown affected service for a few hours in San Francisco.

The FCC asked for input on practices and precedents, reasons for interrupting service, risks in interrupting service, the scope of interruptions, who should have the authority to interrupt service, and legal constraints. The FCC has not said what actions, if any, it took based on input.