Advancements in technology are drastically changing the way public safety agencies carry out their missions. Whether it is employing readiness software to keep better records or using the latest mobile devices to bring critical information to the field, officers must adapt their training and procedures—sometimes radically—to benefit from cutting-edge gadgets.

NYPD begins testing Google Glass
In early February, the New York City Police Department confirmed it was testing two pairs of Google Glass devices. NYPD officers are examining the possibility of using head-mounted displays to complement its intelligence and analytics unit, which devotes time to investigating terrorists. Facial recognition software could instantly identify known threats, enabling police to respond swiftly. Though the technology has not yet been used on patrol, that use is motivation for the field testing.

“It’s in the early stages,” a source told the New York Post. “A handful of people are testing it out. If it works, it could be very beneficial for a cop on patrol who walks into a building with these glasses on. It would be like the Terminator. You walk past somebody and you get his pedigree info—if he’s wanted for a warrant—right on your eye screen. You can identify the bad guys immediately within seconds.”

Other law enforcement agencies are echoing New York’s interest in wearable technology. Departments in Massachusetts, Georgia and California put in their own requests for Glass devices.

Heads-up information improves safety of first responders
Police departments are interested in the wearable technology because of the safety features it would afford officers. Wearing the head-mounted display leaves an officer’s hands free for handling weapons, restraining individuals and attending to victims, all while documenting the scene with photos and videos.

“If Google Glass comes into place,” Norwood Police Officer Andrew Jurewich told Boston Magazine, “all you need to do to take a picture for evidence can be done with the push of a button, or through voice command.”

According to Sci-Tech Today, Glass may also be useful for transmitting information, images and other communications between agencies and offices. The more information the command post has, the better team leaders can coordinate needed resources.

The tech may also connect other first responder teams. CNN recently highlighted Patrick Jackson, a firefighter and software engineer from North Carolina, who believes that Glass can be used to help fight fires. From the truck, firefighters could rely on Glass to locate hydrants, route incoming calls and access information from a dispatcher, all while keeping their eyes facing forward. Eventually, the device could be worn on scene to display floor plans and locate potential hazards in a building. Other wearable recording devices, such as TASER, are unable to integrate information with media capture in this way.

Many are wary of potential drawbacks
While the law enforcement advantages of Glass are apparent, USA Today noted that some people will not want the police to be able to simply view their faces and pull up personal information about them. The availability of that information may encourage profiling and stereotyping, infringing on the rights of innocent individuals, according to Venture Beat.

Privacy experts like Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union support the use of police body cameras, including Glass, as a way to protect both authorities and citizens caught on camera. However, this mutual benefit goes away if officers are allowed to selectively remove the technology to avoid capturing questionable behavior.

Despite the potential pitfalls, Google Glass could help police officers stay connected in emergency response situations and conduct safer and more efficient operations. Guidelines and training practices need to be put into place to ensure officers are not overstepping their bounds, but if proper steps are taken before issuing the wearable tech, head-mounted displays could prove to be a huge step forward for agencies and the public alike.

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