Instead of smashing down doors and charging inside guns a-blazin’, cops may soon take a quieter approach when they invade a private building. They’ll still have to kick the doors in though.
The Tactical Explorer is a $2,500 Throwable Tactical Camera, or what you and I would call a ball of cameras. It comes from the MIT-spawned company Bounce Imaging, which got started by making throwable cameras for first responders. The cop version is pretty much the same as the regular version, with six cameras that pool their images into a 360˚ panorama that can be viewed on an accompanying smartphone app. The ball is coated in rubber, and the police-issue version is has been upgraded with near-infra-red LEDs instead of white LEDs, for better and stealthier performance in low light.
Here’s a goofy video of the Explorer in “action.” The best part might be the John Carpenter-esque soundtrack.
The selling point to police forces is that the information provided by the Explorer will help keep officers safer, but it also means that they’re less likely to shoot bystanders. And anything that protects citizens from the police is a good thing.
As the police force becomes more aggressive, even the president is alarmed. “We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” said President Obama to the public in Camden, N.J, earlier this year, before he put a stop to government-supplied military gear being given to police forces.
But it’s not all cop-operated drones and pepper spray being used on the public. Last year Ford put transmitters in 50 LAPD cars so officers’ driving could be monitored. The idea was to promote safety, and to stop cops driving like Mad Max (in the first movie I mean, when Max was still a policeman). From Wired:
Ford Telematics for Law Enforcement lets police departments see if their officers are giving in to those temptations. The system knows if the light bar is turned on, and measures the speed of the car against the limit. It looks for hard braking and sudden acceleration. It sees when the car spins and when the anti-lock braking system is engaged. Unlike conventional black boxes for cars, it can transmit data in real-time.
More recently, body cameras have been in the news, but in Post Falls, Idaho, police have been wearing cameras since 2007, and cameras have been mandatory there since 2011.
In an interview, Post Falls’s police chief Scott Haug told The Atlantic that the cameras are useful for monitoring officers’ conduct, but they’re also essential in a world where everyone else carries a camera. “Everyone that’s out there is a photojournalist now, and we wanted to make sure officers could describe and document what they see,” he said.
And this could be the selling point to police officers, who can often still choose whether or not to record an incident. If cops can be persuaded that cameras will protect them from false accusations, they’ll be more likely to switch them on when they go into action.
And that’s the case for deploying police tech in general. Police forces can buy and supply any kind of hardware they deem fit, but if the cops don’t see it as useful, they won’t use it. As Bounce Imaging CEO Francisco Aguilar puts it, it’s a “reputation-heavy market. You want to make sure you deliver well for your first customer, so they recommend you to others.”