This is a summary report on a workshop sponsored by the National Institute of Justice in which participant practitioners, researchers, and developers discussed the current state of wearable sensor technology (WST) and how it might be used by law enforcement agencies.
Many WST devices on the market enable individuals and organizations to track and monitor personal health metrics in real time. These devices are worn by the user and contain sensors that capture various biomarkers. Although these technologies are not yet sufficiently developed for law enforcement purposes, WSTs continue to evolve rapidly in their features, which may make them suitable as equipment for law enforcement officers in providing data relevant to their safety and health. The WST workshop participants discussed potential issues that may arise in officers’ acceptance of WST and new policies that will be needed if WST is introduced in law enforcement settings. Policy discussions addressed the determination of what data will be collected by an officer’s WST equipment, how it will be collected, and how the data will be interpreted and used by the law enforcement agency. The workshop determined that although current WST devices are inexpensive and portable, they lack the accuracy and precision needed to inform and support agency policies. In addition, the workshop recommended that the short-term focus of law enforcement leaders should be on preparing for a time when WST technology will be sufficiently cost-effective for use by law enforcement officers. This preparation should include obtaining officer acceptance of the health-related value of WST equipment and the privacy protections that should accompany its use.