Thursday, May 6, 2010

Automated Police Technology

Throughout this blog, a common theme throughout various advancements in police technology have been made clear. Opposition to change in the field of law enforcement has been a re-occurring standard amongst a majority of technological advancements. While advancements in police technology usually come due to the demand for increased officer safety and improved police officer efficiency, budget cuts and a declining economy have created the underlying demand of increased revenue for cities and government. Fewer officer on the streets, due to economic decline, have also worked to lessen the work load of our law enforcement officers. The most recent advancements in police technology have worked to automate services typically performed of police officers, however they have all together done away with the ability of police discretion and “warnings”. This trend in police technology has been met with much opposition from the general public, and an unfortunate inability of law enforcement agencies to fund more officers to replace automated systems suggests the trend is here to stay.

Automated police technology has most typically been seen in our society in the forms of the red light camera, automated speed enforcements systems, and closed circuit television systems. Each system has a particular task for which it performs and in turn has enabled police officers to ignore such duties in order to focus their efforts on more pressing matters. In theory each system performs a particular task, quite efficiently and relatively cheaply, however without any remorse or discretion. Supporters of such systems argue that “if you don’t do anything wrong, then you have nothing to fear” [1]. Opposition to automated police systems argue that “they operate without remorse or care for intent of crime” and negate a critical aspect of the relationship of law enforcement and the public, discretion [2]. Opposition of automated systems also argue the intent of it’s use, which is solely for revenue generation it creates for local governments. Both sides, in support and opposition to automated police technology, have valid arguments and claims to it’s use in our society. Due to this, both sides have seen victory and defeat throughout our nation in the implementation and banning of such technology. In Los Angeles, supporters of automated police technology saw a huge victory when the city announced plans to double the use of such systems within the city [3]. In the state of Indiana, the use of automated police systems was deemed immoral and solely for purpose of generating revenue with little concern for public safety [2]. Due to such findings the use of automated police systems in the state of Indiana have been banned [2].

While the controversy concerning the use of this police technology continues, can promise in this police technology be seen? I absolutely believe automated police systems have an immensely beneficial use in the field of law enforcement, however the intent of local governments and law enforcement agencies needs to be regulated. Additionally, comes the concerns regarding the discretion that automated systems lack. The intent of local governments and law enforcement agencies can surely be determined and regulated far easier than the issue of automated system discretion, but there is truth and concern to be answered in both concerns. As the state of Indiana determined, if automated police systems are not primarily intended to better public safety they have no place in the field of law enforcement. For seeking to earn additional funds from our hard working society by any means necessary is immoral and unethical, two characteristics law enforcement should never encompass. This leaves the concern of discretion, or the lack thereof in relation to automated police systems. Unfortunately, this is an issue I feel not only is unsolvable with today’s technology, it is so due to the immense resources it would require. With no clear resolution to this issue we must determine if the benefits automated systems yield worth this current dilemma, one that I confidently believe will be solved in time. Automated police systems yield one important benefit that is easily overlooked by the general public in that they do not personally see such benefits. But automated police systems decrease the work load of law enforcement officers nationwide, without completely ignoring an aspect of law enforcement. Thus still addressing an issue while enabling police officers to focus efforts on issues not only more important to public safety but enabling law enforcement agencies to properly utilize their most expensive and limited resource, police officers.

Automated police technology is surely not a perfected resource available to our law enforcement agencies, but it does show promise and is an amazing advancement within the field of criminal justice. Time has proven that rarely has technological advancements been met with completely “open arms”, but being tried and tested will work out the problems and focus upon the benefits. With today’s economy and our changing society, automated police technology has a role that I feel not only will stay but will grow as the number of police officers is limited by lack of available resources and our nation grows. Criminal justice is an ever evolving entity and as can be seen today, one that needs to evolve to encompass the newest technological advancement of automated police systems.

[2] "Red Light Camera Bill Faces Crucial Vote Today." The Expired Meter. 16 Feb 2009. Word Press, Web. 28 Feb 2010. .

[3] Connell, Rich. "Los Angeles might expand red-light camera program." L.A. Times. 03 Feb 2010. Tribune, Web. 28 Feb 2010. .

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

In-Car Cameras

A common theme throughout technological advancements in surveillance is that they are commonly met with opposition from the general public. Be it due to fear of big brother or cities taking advantage of fees that can be obtained from automated surveillance, the public is skeptical of additional police technological advancements in the relation to surveillance. One such advancement has been developed that overall is widely accepted from both police officers and the general public. The in-car camera system has been relatively recently deployed in police cars throughout the country and the benefits of it’s use have been instantly seen. Unlike other technological advancements in law enforcement, which typically only benefit the police officer, the in-car camera yields benefits both law enforcement personnel and the general public when the two come into contact with one another.
In particular in-car cameras work to promote officer safety, ensure police professionalism, better police performance, and either support or disprove complaints concerning police practices [1]. Through these benefits of the in-car camera we can begin to see the benefits to both sides that can be derived. The public can rest assured that any complaints made against police misconduct can supported from in-car cameras that record any interactions between the public and police officers during encounters, particularly traffic stops. On the other hand, police officers can effectively combat false accusations with the same device, and will more likely ensure proper police practices due to the knowledge that their interactions with the public will be able to be reviewed by superiors.

Police in-car cameras additionally produce little if any disadvantages to all parties involved in the use of such devices. It can be argued that some police officers may not like in-car cameras monitoring their practices and behavior, much like the thought of big brother watching, the advantages of it’s use far out weigh any personal preferences. The public too can little argue the use of in-car cameras due to the simple fact that in-car cameras are only used to disprove false accusations of the public, and in turn have greater intentions of ensuring proper police practices with the general public.

Upon the deployment of in-car cameras in the field of law enforcement several determinations have been made. “The in-car camera improve citizens' confidence in the police profession, enhance the ability to capture and convict violators, record inappropriate police behavior, and provide valuable data in our efforts to ensure homeland security” [1]. In the end it was concluded that “public safety will benefit from having in-car video cameras available to all police officers” [1]. Police in-car cameras have proven to be quite beneficial to law enforcement practices, and coincidentally they have greatly ensured proper police practices with the general public.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Automated Speed Enforcement System (ASE)

Traffic enforcement is one of the leading responsibilities of law enforcement officers. Speed enforcement is perhaps one of the leading issues within that of traffic enforcement. However, one prevalent problem exists in the enforcement of speed amongst our law enforcement officers. In order for a police officer to ensure that civilians are properly abiding by the speed limit regulations, a police officer needs to be present and witness the infraction first hand. In today’s tough economic times the number of police officers on the streets is in decline and the importance of traffic enforcement is decreasing due to the limited available resources available to law enforcement. A solution may have been developed that can help in the enforcement of speeding motorists, yet make available police officers to focus on more pressing concerns. The Automated Speed Enforcement System (ASE), has been developed and tested in recent times in Europe. Due to recent economic this same system may very easily find itself being utilized in our society.

The Automated Speed Enforcement system utilizes “one or more motor vehicle sensors producing recorded images of vehicles traveling at speeds above a defined threshold” [1]. “Images captured by the ASE are processed and reviewed in an office environment and violation notices are mailed to the registered owner of the identified vehicle” [1]. Working much like red light cameras, the ASE can regulate speeds of motorists in designated areas without the need of a police officer by issuing fines for speed violations and creating a deterrence effect.

The ASE, like most technological advancements in law enforcement, will most likely be met with opposition and controversy. One such argument already made brings forth the fact that a police officer is not present, and the ASE does nothing to physically stop a motorist from speeding [2]. Another argument questions the motives of cities implementing the system and where exactly the ASE can be and will be used [2]. While these are valid arguments, I believe they do not have the weight to offset the benefits the ASE can yield. While it is true a police officer is not present and the ASE does not have the ability to physically stop a motorist from speeding, I believe the deterrence effect the ASE creates would help to lower the number of speeding motorists in designated areas. Additionally, without the ASE and a police officer being absent there is nothing that deters motorists from speeding, as opposed to at least the deterrence the ASE offers. As for the concern regarding when and where the ASE can be deployed, I feel some simple regulations or assurances can bring about the most benefits. If the ASE were to be deployed in random stretches or highways or city streets I feel the ASE would join red light cameras with the intentions of cities to simply earn more money from hard working citizens. If the ASE were to be only deployed in approved locations for specific reasons I feel it could be ensured that the ASE was truly being used for public safety and traffic enforcement rather than a money making operation. Limiting ASE’s to school and construction zones, where motorists are already supposed to reduce their speed, would further add a deterrence factor to such zones and a punishment would be in place for motorists disobeying speed limits despite the absence of a police officer.

Still a technology that has yet to be commonly utilized in our society, I feel we will soon find Automated Speed Enforcement systems throughout our roadways. However, until the system is actually put into place the arguments for and against such a system remain simply theory and speculation. Unforeseen factors may present themselves once such a system is implemented in our community, but as it stands now I feel the ASE is a viable system that would aid in the deterrence of speeding violations in certain areas, and would help to increase safety issues surround areas such as construction and school zones in relation to passing motorists.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Big Brother, often the term deemed behind the fear of a Government in which it has too much access into the private lives of it’s citizens. CCTV, a closed circuit television system commonly used in the security systems of buildings, banks, casinos, etc. The combination of the two is a subject of great fear to some, while the possible benefits to others warrant a look into the utilization of CCTV systems by the Government for monitoring purposes. One Government has taken this step, the United Kingdom is currently known by some as the most watched society in the world. Hosting the worlds most vast CCTV system the United Kingdom monitors nearly every major public space from the comfort of a central viewing station, located within the city’s local police agency. To some this is perceived as an efficient form of crime control technology by which fewer officers can monitor a much larger area and respond accordingly, typically without the need of an emergency phone call. To others one phrase comes to mind, “big brother is watching”. The vast CCTV system utilized by the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom is often the subject of great debate, controversy, and fear. In looking at the CCTV system of the United Kingdom, we will determine the pros and cons of such a practice as it can apply in American society.

The central debate of our Government utilizing a CCTV system to monitor the public activities of individuals for criminal justice purposes centers around how exactly our Government intends on using them. While the benefits of a CCTV system can be seen in instances such as the Bulger case, in which a 3-year old boy was murdered and a CCTV system caught the murderers luring the boy away from a public shopping center [1]. In contrast, individuals fear that the Government can greatly impose fear on the American public due to the fact that one is always being watched, via a concept such as CCTV use in the UK. Additionally opponents of the CCTV system make the argument that while certain aspects of society can be monitored, crime will simply adapt and move beyond the view of CCTV systems. This is a common theme in the struggle between crime and crime prevention, that has been witnessed with nearly every technological advancement made available to both police and criminal. Perhaps the greatest fear of CCTV opponents lies in the fear that a CCTV system will simply open the door to further Government monitoring of the private lives of society. Intentions such as this have already been seen in the United Kingdom in which the Government use of CCTV systems is common ground.

Aimed at deterring and controlling problems associated with antisocial families in the United Kingdom, Secretary Ed Balls has had 2,000 CCTV cameras installed in the private homes of dysfunctional families across the UK [2]. The reason for such intrusion is that if a child has a more stable home life, they will be less likely to stray into the life of drugs and crime [2]. In addition to such monitoring, a private police force has been developed in which the Government can enforce certain changes in the homes of certain individuals subject to the CCTV systems [2]. From this we can see what the evolution and progression that Government monitoring of the private lives of it’s citizens can entail.

Proponents of a Government-run CCTV system argue that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear in regards to being watched by the Government. Police agencies could also greatly benefit from the implementation of such a system due to the ability to save resources by having fewer officer monitoring a greater area, and responding to situations preventatively rather than reactively. In the United Kingdom, police officers are dispatched faster due to the ability to witness a crime via the CCTV and no need for an emergency call to report it [2].

The benefits of such a CCTV system being utilized by our Government can be noted, and seriously considered as the results in the United Kingdom do speak to the effectiveness of such a practice. Unfortunately, as it relates to our society I do not feel a CCTV system would provide more benefits than it does problems. Our society is greatly based off of personal freedom and privacy, and the implementation of a CCTV speaks largely against such liberties. Additionally, it is my personal opinion that CCTV systems already in place, via banks, casinos, etc, already have the benefits available to crime control practices to negate the need for a Government-run system. This also creates much of the same benefits associated with a Government-run system, without the fear of Government intrusion into the private lives of it’s citizens. While CCTV systems do create some form of crime deterrence and benefits to criminal justice agencies, I feel our society is one based greatly on independence, privacy, and personal freedom. The implementation of a Government-run CCTV system would create much opposition of the general public and an unnecessary fear of our Government.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Red Light Cameras

We see them in an ever increasing number of intersections. We receive the tickets in the mail without any warning. Generating millions of dollars in revenue for cities across our nation, red light cameras have become a real force to be recognized and feared in our daily commutes. One side of the issue will argue that if you simply didn’t break the law, you wouldn’t be getting a ticket for a red light infraction. On the other hand, individuals argue that red light cameras are an injustice and have no object of safety, simply money and greed.

“According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 22 percent of all traffic accidents in the United States are caused by drivers running red lights” [1]. In order to help combat this issue an advancement in police technology was developed. However, this technology did not allow police officers the ability to be more efficient in catching individuals guilty of red light infractions. Instead, it negated the need for police officers all together, allowing police officers to focus on more important issues. Red light cameras started to appear on intersections throughout the country. A completely automated system that would take the picture of an individual, the make/model of the car, the license plate, and the infraction in process. Shortly there after a ticket complete with picture evidence would be mailed to the address of the individual guilty. These fully automated devices collect all of the evidence authorities need to prosecute red light-runners.

Red light cameras have proved to be incredibly successful in recent years, and across the country cities are simply looking to add more. “Los Angeles' red-light traffic camera program netted more than $6 million last year after expenses” [2]. Due to such success “Los Angeles will be looking to renegotiate contracts and eventually double the overall reach of the program to 64 intersections city-wide” [2]. Currently the LAPD red light camera system issues out approximately 3,600 tickets monthly [2].

Opposition to red light camera systems argue the usage of the cameras by stating success is not measured by safety and the reduction of traffic incidents, but simply by the amount of revenue earned. Unfortunately this argument can be recognized as valid when the Governor of California states “this [red-light cameras] is a revenue producer” for the state and has future sights set on modifying red-light cameras to catch speeders as well [2]. It is motives such as these that has pushed some citizens to call for the banned use of red-light cameras in their state, such as that in Illinois which will undergo a vote to determine the future of red-light camera use.

While the current intentions of red-light camera use may be far less than noble due to the obvious desire of easy money for the cities that deploy them. The technology and original intentions of public safety are worth not ignoring. Active Alliance Transportation acknowledges this in their statement to motorists that “red light cameras are one of many tools for traffic safety and an outright ban or limiting of them eliminates one of these tools” [3]. The truth is red-light cameras are a valuable tool that enable police officers to focus on matters of greater importance by taking the burden of red light infractions off of them. “Red-light and speed cameras can be a valuable traffic enforcement tool if properly focused on safety and altering driver behavior”, as opposed to a revenue generating machine for cities [2]. This is not that apparent truth of today, and until it is red-light cameras will be met with controversy and opposition of the general public.

Works Cited:

[1] Harris, Tom. "How Red-light Cameras Work." How Stuff Works. Discovery Communications, LLC., Web. 28 Feb 2010. .

[2] Connell, Rich. "Los Angeles might expand red-light camera program." L.A. Times. 03 Feb 2010. Tribune, Web. 28 Feb 2010. .

[3] "Red Light Camera Bill Faces Crucial Vote Today." The Expired Meter. 16 Feb 2009. Word Press, Web. 28 Feb 2010. .

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Police technology has evolved immensely since police officers first arrived. This technology has been seen in nearly every aspect of law enforcement and each has had the purpose of increasing police officer efficiency, effectiveness and improving officer safety. Arguably today the most recognizable jump in police technology comes in the form of the Taser. The Taser is an electroshock weapon that uses electrical current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles, called neuromuscular incapacitation [1].

Tasers were introduced to be used by police to subdue fleeing, belligerent, or potentially dangerous subjects in situations in which a more lethal weapon would have otherwise been utilized [1]. With this principle in mind it can be understood how Tasers amount to an effective tool for police officers to gain control over a potentially dangerous situation with civilians. Tasers increase police officer safety by allowing separation between an individual and the officer, as opposed to the use of a baton. Unfortunately as of recently, Tasers have become under much scrutiny by the general public based on reported deaths by Tasers and improper use by police officers.

While the Taser has been heralded as “the greatest invention since sliced bread” by some law enforcement officers, others have began to campaign against the use of Tasers by law enforcement. The use of Tasers has indeed become quite controversial following instances of Taser use that have resulted in serious injury and death [1]. One such instance is that of a 20-year-old man who died after being shot with a Taser during a scuffle with a sheriff’s deputy in Maryland [2]. Instances such as this have brought about various campaigns against the Taser, demanding “It’s time to ban the Taser and use something more civilized and humane” [3]. This makes apparent the truth that the use of the Taser is not a non-lethal practice by police officers but rather a potentially lethal use of force. Taser Inc. has since reclassified the Taser as a less-than-lethal force as opposed to non-lethal [4]. Some have argued that police are simply to eager to use the Taser, as opposed to following the proper escalation of force and procedure. In a trial of Taser use with the Green City Police Department, the officer in charge of the trial stated “from what we have seen so far it seems police are too eager to reach for their Taser as opposed to utilizing commands and other tools available when they confront a suspect holding a potential weapon” [5].

To make matters worse, the media plays a huge enemy for the use of Tasers by law enforcement personnel. Seldom to we hear of proper use of Tasers and the vast benefits they yield to the efficiency, effectiveness, and safety of our police officers. Instead instances of improper use and deaths are reported on by the media, which is simply adding fuel to the fire which is that of the campaign against Tasers. It’s headlines such as “Cop Tasers 10-year old girl with Mom’s Permission” [3], and “Man is Twice Zapped with Stun Gun at Mother’s Home, Dies” [3] that are seen by the general public, and creating a negative image of Tasers.

It is a very probable reality that police officers today are relying too much on the use of the Taser. This however should not call for the ban of Taser use by our law enforcement, for the benefit’s the Taser yields for the criminal justice system are too vast. Instead resources should be focused on proper training of our police officers in the use of Tasers. Especially because police officers are so much in the public eye, an eye which is so quick to criticize and ridicule the actions of our police officers. The proper escalation of force should be enforced within our law enforcement organizations, and the proper practice of Taser use should be closely monitored. It has been true throughout the evolution of police technology, that every new creation creates benefits and drawbacks. While the Taser today is being ridiculed because of it’s drawbacks, I feel the drawbacks are being blown out of proportion by that of the media, and improper use by police officers. The Taser is an immensely beneficial form of technology to be utilized by police officers and not one that should be cast away, but rather one that simply needs to be properly utilized.


[1] "Taser." Wikipedia. 2010. Wikimedia Foundation, INC., Web. 24 Feb 2010.

[2] "Man dies after police jolt him with stun gun." CNN. 2007. Cable News Network, Web. 24Feb 2010. .

[3] "Campaign Against the Taser." Web. 24 Feb 2010.

[4] "TASER." Taser Internation, INC., Web. 24 Feb 2010.

[5] "Police too eager to use taser." Greens. Web. 24 Feb 2010.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Advancements in Police Technology

Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of police officers has often been the driving force behind advancements in police technology. Police have at the same time been both fascinated by and horrified of technology for it has been both a benefit and a curse[3]. Technology has spawned controversy and impacted community relations, yet has increased police officer safety and improved efficiency and effectiveness of each individual officer. As can be seen throughout the different eras of policing, the particular needs and emphasizes of law enforcement agencies has changed and thus impacted the types of technological advancements.

The majority of advancements in police technology today originated during the reform era of policing in which police agencies became increasingly reliant upon technology and overly concerned with efficiency [2]. Technology has made patrolling easier and more efficient but the impact of that efficiency came at the cost of police relations with the community [3]. Major technological advancements that can be recognized during this time came most notably in the fields of communications, transportation, and criminalistics. Today these advancements are still utilized and have been advanced further, yet the separation between the community and the police has come of great concern.

Today we are known to be in the community era of policing, in which efforts are under way by the police to re-connect with the public [2]. It may seem as though this era would have a relatively small need for further advancements of police technology due to the impact it has had on community relations in the past. Instead it is simply the type of technological advancements that is impacted by these priority changes of law enforcement agencies. One such technological push comes in the need for technologies that utilize less-than-lethal force. Despite being subject to recent controversy, this has come most commonly in the form of the TAZER. Technologies of this nature come of great need to police officers for it allows practical and applicable alternatives to lethal force when the need to gain control of a situation arises.

While the focus of policing changes the way in which police technology evolves, another driving force behind such advancements comes by way of the criminal. High technology such as computerization and wireless communications is transforming the ways of some criminals [1]. This spurs the need to develop successful law enforcement technologies that enhance crime-fighting efforts [1]. In addition the type of crimes committed drives advancements in police technologies.

Throughout the history of policing technology has played an important role. It has opened doors allowing police officers to efficiently and effectively overcome tasks they are commonly presented with. Technology has also altered the way in which policing is conducted, which has at times diminished community relations. Today efforts are underway to correct these relationships, but technology is still an important tool in policing with the efficiency and effectiveness of each individual officer at the core of each advancement in police technology.

[1] Foster, Raymond. "The Evolution and Development of Police Technology." Seaskate Inc. (1998): n. pag. Web. 8 Feb 2010.

[2] McNamara, Robert. Multiculturalism In The Criinal Justice System. 1st ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education, 2009. 223-252. Print.

[3] Wadman, Robert. To Protect and To Serve: A History of Police in America. 1st ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc., 2004. 107-123. Print.

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