by Geoff Gillette
We’ve come a long way from the days when police officers had to walk to their cars, pick up their fixed microphone radios and call headquarters with a question or to seek further instructions.
Nowadays, nearly every squad car has a mobile computer and dashboard camera. And each officer is sporting enough computing power to run Mission Control during the Apollo 13 mission with some RAM and ROM to spare.
And signs indicate that law enforcement is heading in an even more high tech direction. The question is…should it?
Google Glass, body mounted cameras and smart watches are just some of the innovations looming for law enforcement professionals. Technologists are envisioning a day when police officers will have the technological capacity to simply look at you and search out your entire history. Or switch on a camera when they are checking on a suspect in order to record the entire interview.
Given the current status of police trust in the country following several high profile cases of police shootings, many Americans feel that cameras on police are a good thing. That it will create a greater level of accountability and trust. To some degree, I agree. But there is also the risk that the ever growing technological burden on officers will result in moments of hesitation or confusion when decisive action is needed.
What does the officer rely on? Their tactical heads-up display or what their eyes are showing them? And what if their eye-mounted computers don't spit out the relevant data fast enough for the officer to act? Do they run immediately to sounds of distress or take a critical moment to make sure their body-cams are on? At what point does technology become more hindrance than help? And let’s not ignore the fact that much of what field officers use depends on wireless technology and the Internet. Two areas which have been shown to be prone to attack or hacking.
It is all well and good that the technology supporting law enforcement continues to improve, but in order for those improvements to have any merit or use in real-life scenarios, police budgets will need to show an increase in the area of training. If officers are not given solid, practical training on new technologies, the tech will be of no help and could even prove dangerous.
On the plus side, one of the benefits of having increased tech in cars is that police officers can show that they know how to have a little fun at their own expense as well.
Let us know in the comments section, do you think adding technology at the fastest rate possible is a help or burden to law enforcement?