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Police Using More High-Tech Gadgets


The high-tech gadgets developed for warfare are now being used for police work in the United States and other countries. Police departments find the advanced technology helps officers carry out surveillance and other activities without putting them in danger. For example, robots are being used by Special Weapons and Tactics units, or SWAT teams, in most major American cities in an effort to reduce casualties.

New police technology

This is an iRobot Negotiator. Sergeant Mark Canty, who heads the Orlando SWAT team, steers the device using this console. A screen shows Canty what the robot's camera sees. "It helps provide us with intelligence so we know what we're getting ourselves into, where we're going," Canty explained.

The manufacturer of the Negotiator also supplies robots to the US military. The robot can climb stairs, deliver small items, and carry out surveillance - all extremely useful functions for police work.

Orlando police have two other robots in their arsenal - including this dumbbell-shaped camera called the Recon Scout. It can enter buildings to carry out reconnaissance before officers move in.

Some gadgets are more popular and helpful than others

Some pieces of equipment are more popular than others. This Eye Ball R1 device is one of the most commonly used by the Orlando SWAT team. The tennis-ball sized gadget transmits a 360-degree view of its surroundings. It has been used by the Israeli army.

SWAT officer, John Worsham, says at least one high-tech gizmo is used in about 25 percent of all the team's operations. "Using the technology in the right environment, and knowing when to use it and when not to use it, is going to be the key to effectively implementing those tools into the arsenal," he said.

When a SWAT team is called to a scene, it's often to deal with high-risk situations. It's dangerous work - the FBI says 57 police offers were killed intentionally in 2007, three in tactical situations encountered by SWAT teams.

"Usually when we go in there's been some kind of violence," Canty says, "some kind of weapon has been used, or we have information that the suspect has weapons."

New technology is becoming more sophisticated

Officers are regularly introduced to new technology. They are being shown a headset that picks up what the wearer is saying by reading their jawbone vibrations.

The makers of this gear sell to a wide range of law enforcement agencies and military units.

"The FBI, the Secret Service, the SWAT teams, Special Operations for the military, Seals, Green Berets, Hanel said. "With the environment that we're living in today, it's gotten to the point where we need to be ahead."

But Sergeant Canty says the technology can have its drawbacks. He finds deploying these gadgets can sometimes slow his team down, and are not a replacement for human skill.

"I think you have to look at the technology as kind of a supplement. It kind of helps us do our job better, but you still need a good quality officer out there running the equipment," he said.

He also says suspects encountering a robot could attempt to disable it - a key concern of a report by the National Institute of Science and Technology.

Nevertheless, the Orlando Police Department has spent tens of thousands of dollars on high-tech help for its SWAT team. Officers predict investments will continue to be made, which they hope will make their jobs a little safer.

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