Now a new generation of cameras - so-called "body cams" - are stirring up a nearly identical debate. Cops in New York City are balking at their use. But Fort Worth, Austin, and other cities are both joining the trend of agencies experimenting with body cams, and where they're in use police officials sing their praises. Here's a news report out of California where the Rialto PD has decided to use body cams for all their officers:
In particular they find them useful for writing reports and ensuring that law enforcement testimony is as credible and backed up as possible. The cameras aren't a cure-all but they'd solve a lot of problems and prevent many he-said she-said disputes.
A related technological development are law enforcement applications being designed for Google Glass, where officers would get information related to vehicles, suspects, video feeds, etc., though the Google Glass technology in real time. According to Tech Crunch (Aug. 19):
Mutualink is demoing one such app today at APCO, a conference for public safety communications, with its Glass App for police, firefighters and first responders.Robocop, indeed! This application brings to mind fantasy and science fiction scenarios that not long ago seemed too fantastic to believe. Readers with children might recall J.K. Rowling's "Omnioculars" in the Harry Potter series where sports fans (in that case, Quidditch) could see instant replays, slow down action and retrieve detailed information about the game, players, strategies, etc., by looking through magical lenses. Or, consider the contemporary TV show, Continuum, on the SciFi channel, where the main character is a cop from the future who wears a special suit linked to a chip in her head that presents real-time data linkages, facial recognition analyses, and even monitors vital signs of people in view of the agent. Suddenly, those sorts of uses seem less fanciful than just a short time ago.
The app would allow public safety officers and officials to communicate in real-time via streaming video from the scene, as well as to receive and view key documents, including things like building schematics, medical records of victims, live feeds of security cameras in the area and more. It’s the ultimate on-demand intel platform for agents working in the field, and a way to stay in contact with HQ and other organizations even when radio systems won’t talk to each other.
Of course, there could be privacy concerns with such an app. Recently, news came out that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials in the U.S. oppose the idea of police body cameras, suggesting they’d be open to all kinds of dangerous interpretation. Mutualink says its solution emphasizes agency control of media and recording on glass, so privacy would be in the hands of the cops and other officials using them and should be protected.
A tactical heads-up display being used by safety officers is a natural fit for Glass, and as the enforcement agents would be using the head-mounted computer as part of their uniform, they wouldn’t have to worry about looking like idiots, so this could be a place where Google actually finds some long-term adoption. Mutualink is also already a service provider used by NATO Special Operations Forces, homeland security, police and fire departments, so it has the relationships in place to make this happen.
It’s not Robocop, but it’s a step closer.
While we're on the subject of police tech, the Los Angeles Auto Show asked car manufacturers to come up with examples of what police vehicles would/should look like in 2025. See a slideshow with examples.
The Google Glass app, police body cams, and probably even the vehicles could and likely would eventually be merged, giving police more information on the world around them but also gathering video and audio of what the cop sees, hears, says and does - these technologies inevitably cut both ways.