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On the Cutting Edge

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 25 Issue: 8 Dated: August 1998 Pages: 18-20-23
K W Strandberg
Date Published
5 pages
This article describes the following technologies and how they are being used in police investigations: digital photography, remote or automated law enforcement, a technology that can immediately indicate an officer's need for help and his/her location, and new bullet-resistant plastic.
Digital cameras do not require film processing to view images, and it is easy to share the images because they exist in an electronic format. Immediately after capturing an image, it can be transmitted to agencies that may need it to assist in an investigation. Digital cameras can also aid in courtroom case presentations. Images can be combined to take a jury through a crime scene electronically in a 360-degree perspective and view various areas of the scene at high levels of detail. Another technology is known as remote or automated policing. Under this technology, law-breaking can be detected and law-breakers identified just as if the police themselves had been observers. One application of such technology is the detection of running red lights. Sensors in the pavement and the film or digital camera are only activated and ready to shoot when the light is red and has been red for at least 3/10 of a second. The computer in the system estimates the car's speed, calculates when the car will be in the middle of the intersection, and takes another picture. After an enlarged photo of the license plate is produced, the images are reviewed by police officers. Citations with the photo on it are mailed to violators. Another technology enhances officer safety by imbedding location capability into a two-way wireless device that notifies central dispatch of an officer's location and need for help when he/she is out of a patrol car. Also, new bullet-resistant plastic provides police with a way to approach an armed criminal with little or no risk. In addition to describing the uses of the aforementioned technologies, this article discusses technology's importance for policing and the legal implications of its use.