It has been a long time since police officers did their jobs armed only with a nightstick, a set of handcuffs and their badge. For decades now, technology has been an important part of the fight against crime.
As early as the 1900s technological innovations such as fingerprint identification made it easier for cops to find and convict crooks, while the development of radar and two-way radios during World War II helped officers to stay in contact with each other when they were out on the streets.
21st-century technology has advanced even further, and today’s police officers are armed with devices which wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie, and which are used to keep criminals and ordinary people under almost constant surveillance.
20 They Can "See" Through Walls
Thermal imaging cameras have been around for years, but their one fault is that they don’t work so well inside where other sources of heat can mess with the readings. However, new devices allow police officers to “see” through walls, by detecting movement in neighboring rooms; vital intelligence if officers are about to carry out a raid.
19 GPS Darts Can Track Vehicles In A Chase
Tracking vehicles in a high-speed chase is not always easy, especially in built-up areas where police have to worry about the safety of other road users. In some cases, you might need to let the criminal get away and catch up with him later – which can now be done thanks to GPS darts which are fired from cop cars and latch onto the crooks’ vehicles.
18 Police Cars Are Covered In Surveillance Cameras
Motorists are used to the presence of surveillance cameras at traffic signals or stop junctions, but many people don’t realize that modern cop cars are basically mobile camera units, covered in specialist devices that identify and track vehicles and individuals who are wanted by the police – as well as innocent passers-by.
17 Facial Recognition Software Is Real
Facial recognition software may seem like something from a sci-fi movie, but it is very real and is already being used by police forces around the world. Police officers in China have even been provided with hi-tech sunglasses which use facial recognition software to identify wanted individuals in real time.
16 New System Allows Cops To Calculate Where A Shooter Was Standing
Most of the time when police are called to a shooting, the shooter is already long gone, and the first thing officers need to try and do is figure out where the shots came from. ShotSpotter is a detection system, which uses audio sensors placed in dangerous neighborhoods to show police where the shooter was stood.
15 Police Can Keep Their Car Running And Take The Keys Out
Officers may sometimes have to leave their doors open in the middle of a pursuit, but they always remove their keys. However, cop cars have a special system which allows them to keep the engines running without the keys, ready for an easy escape, but if anyone touches the pedals without the keys, the engine will cut out.
14 Social Media Is A Crime-Fighting Tool
Social media has its flaws, but police forces around the world have also been able to use major social media networks to connect with their local community and even to solve crimes and track down criminals. Of course, police can also use social media to track crooks, as well as spying on what the rest of us are saying when we chat with our friends!
13 The Stingray Can Locate Your Cell Phone
It isn’t just social media that police can and will monitor in a bid to solve crime; police forces also have devices which can pinpoint the exact location of a cell phone when it makes or receives a call. Agencies like the FBI can also use cell phone bugs, but devices like the Stingray are much easier to deploy in the field.
12 Robotic Cameras Can Go Into Dangerous Situations
Not all of the 21st century police tech is used to monitor innocent people. Some is used to keep officers and innocent victims safe in dangerous situations. For example, many police forces now use robots with cameras to assess high-risk situations before sending officers into a building, and robotics is only going to be used more frequently in the future.
11 Not All Cop Cars Are Bulletproof
Given that police officers have targets painted on their backs, most people would probably expect that cop cars provide their occupants with proper protection against firearm discharge. However, there are few cars which have bulletproof bodywork, and even fewer which have bulletproof glass, leaving officers – and even the criminals in the back - exposed to an attack.
10 Criminals Are Now Identified By Biometrics
For decades police have used fingerprints to identify criminals and to establish who has been at the scene. Yet there have been mistakes with fingerprints, so some forces are moving onto using biometrics to identify criminals – everything from eye scanners to DNA samples to ensure the system is foolproof.
9 Body Cameras Protect The Public As Well As Police
Police officers have worn body cameras for many years, and as well as being used to put criminals away, images taken by these cameras have also been used to protect innocent people from corrupt cops. There are plans to advance the technology on these cameras to include biometrics and thermal imaging, making them a mobile detection system.
8 Canine Vehicles Need Special Air Conditioning
Police dogs are not just the cutest cops on the street, but they have an important part to play in tracking down crooks and evidence. There are even police officers who are specially trained to work with the canines, and they have specially-designed vehicles with intelligent air conditioning to keep the dogs cool if they have to stay in the car for a while.
7 New Systems Can Find People Carrying A Firearm In A Crowd
Mass shootings are becoming disturbingly common in the US, and police are having to find new ways to identify individuals that are carrying guns in crowded areas. 21st century technology which can see if people are carrying concealed weapons is currently being trialed by the New York City Police Department.
6 Cops Can Track Where Your Vehicle Has Been
Crooks may think that they are safe driving around town when there are no cops around, but what they don’t know is that fixed surveillance cameras and those on cop cars have already read their license plate and stored the location at which it was seen – which could come in useful if officers are trying to prove someone was in a certain part of town at a certain time.
5 Handheld Lasers Can Identify Suspicious Substances
It isn’t just police officers who can benefit from modern technology. Crime scene investigators, or CSIs as they are more commonly known, have also been given hi-tech equipment which allows them to scan suspicious substances in the field, and to get an instant read-out on what they have managed to find.
4 Law Enforcement Agencies Are Starting To Use Drones
Police forces have used helicopters for years to assist in pursuits and to track criminals using thermal imaging cameras but advances in drone technology have made this kind of surveillance not only easier but also a lot cheaper. They can even be fitted with specialist cameras to help them find crooks.
3 And Some Drones Are Launched From Specialist Cars
It is even possible for the droned to be launched from the roof of a police car, allowing officers to continue the pursuit where their vehicles can’t follow. There are some concerns about the use of drones by police, as their cameras can capture images of innocent people as well as criminals.
2 New Tech Alerts Drivers Who Can't Hear A Siren
Every driver knows that when they hear a siren, it’s time to pull over. Unfortunately for police and for the drivers of other emergency vehicles, some motorists use noise-canceling headphones while they drive, which can prevent them from hearing sirens. Emergency vehicles have been fitted with a device which creates a rumbling effect that drivers can feel rather than hear.
1 Most Cops Use iPads, Not Notebooks
The old image of the cop with his well-thumbed notebook is fast disappearing from our streets, as police are increasingly using iPads and tablet computers not only to find information about people they have stopped in the street but also to record their own observations on incidents and to take statements from witnesses.
Sources: Governing, Pursuit Response, Police One, Forensic Mag