Police Departments Use New Technology in Daily Operations

Laura BednarCybersecurity and Vulnerabilities, Digital Forensics InformationLeave a Comment

Police New Technology Advances

Police officers have long since progressed from using strictly paper files and CB Radios to implementing high-tech security solutions. In many ways, these devices have made departments more efficient, but with modern technology comes the potential danger of invading civilian privacy.

Law enforcement officers argue that advancement in technology is necessary, especially in communities where the department is short-staffed. Having devices in the squad cars and as a part of the officer’s uniform allows for efficiency to compensate for the lack of personnel. While the technology allows police to gather more information, there may be constitutional issues related to privacy.

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An attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation states her fear that mobile technology can gather information about people that violates their Fourth Amendment rights. While government officials are attempting to keep up with the times, new methods in policing may spark controversy.

Protect and Serve with Cameras and Software

Several new advancements have already been adopted or will be implemented in the coming years. Some of the most common devices used by police departments include:

  • Automatic License Plate Recognition: This camera-database technology is a system that takes a picture of a car’s license plate and processes the information to see if the car is stolen or if the driver is wanted. According to POLICE Magazine, the system can identify and record plates with greater accuracy than an entire squad of police cars.
  • Thermal Imaging: A handheld device that detects body heat allowing officers to locate suspects who may be hiding within structures. This technology can also be used to conduct search and rescue operations by seeing a thermal view of their surroundings.
  • Body Cameras: Small cameras built into police uniforms now capture interactions they have with civilians and criminals. In some cases, the camera is activated when an officer pulls his gun, and some cameras have facial recognition software to identify suspects at a crime scene.
  • Surveillance Cameras: These devices can be installed on light posts or on the top of buildings to issue tickets to those who were speeding or alert police officers to criminal activity happening within an area of the city.
  • Drones: One of the more cutting-edge and experimental pieces of technology, drones are used to gain an aerial vantage point for crime scenes, search and rescue efforts, and crowd monitoring. The use of drones is controversial, though police have stated they would not be used for unwarranted surveillance.

Privacy Concerns Don’t Remain Silent

Civilians have voiced concerns over facial recognition software and cameras that may take their picture when they are not a suspect. The Federal Communications Commission is working to implement restrictions on the devices and police departments are also drafting policies on technological use. However, there may be some substance to the complaints.

Director of Forensics at SecureData, Allan Buxton, said, “Information collected by cameras and license plate readers is only a persistent threat when its aggregated or retained into databases.”

He gave the example of a person commuting to work and driving past a police cruiser on the way to the office or on the way home. Over time, or with information from more than one license plate reader, that data can reveal your route to work, time of your commute and the stops or errands you make on the way.

He gave the example of a person commuting to work and driving past a police cruiser on the way to the office or on the way home. Over time, or with information from more than one license plate reader, that data can reveal your route to work, time of your commute and the stops or errands you make on the way.

“Unlike your cell provider, whose tower pings likely can display an approximate route to work, license plate recognition data is ultimately a public record. Similar risks apply to video collections, be they surveillance systems or body cameras worn by officers. These devices, when paired with facial recognition, can pinpoint an individual just walking past a recorded interaction,” said Buxton.

As far as the development of drones, Buxton said they would be more convenient and beneficial in terms of cost and noise than full-on aircrafts, but he still posed some questions: What happens when a drone being used for surveillance collides with a powerline or falls into traffic? Or if that drone loses signal at an inopportune time? How will the FCC regulate their transmission controls?

Police Safety Measures Rest in the Hands of the Future

Law enforcement is nothing like it was even a decade ago, and the amount of technology in daily operational use is only growing. A solution for maintaining privacy while increasing public safety with new devices seems to be an elusive concept, but departments are working on rectifying this problem.

The need for digital forensic services is apparent not only in police departments but in other businesses and the life of an average consumer. SecureForensics takes client privacy seriously. We are an SSAE 18 Type II Certified company and we employ certified examiners to work on cases. Our forensics services include employment verification, fraud investigation, and online harassment investigation, all types of crimes that police deal with on a regular basis.

After our examination, we produce a court-admissible report of the evidence found to prove your case. Call 1-800-288-1407 to learn how SecureForensics can help you.