High-tech gear quickly transforming police work
From laptops and smart phones to body cameras and increased firepower, policing has transformed within a generation
By Andrew Blankstein
Cops of today have far greater resources at their fingertips, including hardware and software that used to reside at the station house. A police cruiser now typically is equipped with at least one laptop, giving instant access to national criminal databases, as well as portable fingerprint scanners, Breathalyzer units and automatic license-plate-reader technology that can identify stolen cars while cruising down the street, even at a high speeds. And while not department issued, personal smart phones and, specifically, policing-related apps are expanding officers’ one-stop data search capabilities.
But experts and veteran law enforcement officials say that straight-forward mission is rapidly giving way to a more complex and nuanced form of policing. It’s a world in which technology and instant communication help that beat cop serve and protect, while simultaneously demanding new levels of training and accountability and raising serious civil liberties concerns.
"It's like the difference in getting across the country on horseback like the pioneers did or flying in a jet from New York to California," Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents some 10,000 officers, said of the rapid-fire changes sweeping police departments across the country. "And it's happened in the span of a career."