Though the days of Judge Dredd and Robo Cop haven’t arrived, technological advances are changing the way law enforcement professionals work in the field. Recent advancements have enhanced safety, increased intelligence capabilities and have even bolstered accountability, helping police work smarter instead of harder in their daily pursuit to protect and serve.
To name a few, these recent advancements are making their way into modern crime fighters’ toolboxes:
- Robots and Armed Drones
- Body Cameras
- Prediction Tools
- Law Enforcement Apps
Robots and Armed Drones
Robotic technology – both armed and unarmed – is finding a place in some police departments across the country. In Gloucester Township, for example, police use robots to provide eyes and voices in armed standoff situations. The robots, law enforcement officials say, can be deployed in places that aren’t safe for officers to enter.
Working like RC cars, these robots serve as scouts in barricade situations. Equipped with cameras and speakers, they enable police to see behind the barricade lines without putting humans in danger.
Armed drones are also finding a place in domestic law enforcement, enabling officers to disable suspects remotely. These armed models, however, are coming under fire as concerns arise about depersonalization in the use of force.
The use of body cameras in law enforcement is proliferating, as well. These tools provide a way for officers to record encounters, providing more accountability along the way. The Los Angeles Police Department, for example, plans to equip most of its officers with these cameras in the near future to enhance efforts already under way with patrol car dash cameras.
While standard body cameras simply record interactions, advancements in biometrics may soon make it possible for body cameras to use facial recognition software and other tools to help officers identify those with warrants on the spot.
Concerns about the use of such technology have also been raised, both in regard to standard body cameras and those that may someday be equipped with biometrics-reading capabilities.
The Urban Institute’s John Roman warns about the potential for Draconian practices if care isn’t exercised in the implementation of this rapidly advancing technology. Privacy concerns have also been expressed about standard body cameras recording routine interactions.
Advancements in data mining and prediction software have given rise to tools such as PredPol. This software enables departments to calculate potential hot spots for crime based on times and locations of previous crimes. Beta tested in Santa Cruz, California, this software uses predictive analytics that allow police to carefully manage deployment based on predictions of where crime is most likely to occur.
Enhanced Intelligence in the Field
A number of other technological enhancements are increasing the intelligence that officers in the field have to work with. Portable fingerprint scanners, for example, allow police on traffic stops to quickly determine identity and search for outstanding warrants. GPS bullets let officers shoot tracking devices into vehicles for remote monitoring.
Efforts are also underway to enhance 911 operators’ ability to track incoming calls from cellphones. As it stands, cellphone callers’ locations can be hard to pinpoint, but if efforts to require greater tracking abilities prove fruitful, 911 operators would have the ability to send help to more precise locations.
Another tool, SketchCop, is putting the power to create composite sketches into the hands of victims themselves. This software package allows users to create composites by scanning thousands of hairstyles, facial features, accessories and more to create a representation of a suspect police can use to close cases.