Home Main Category Opinion Cop Tech: “This Is Car 54 – Preparing To Launch The Probe…”

Cop Tech: “This Is Car 54 – Preparing To Launch The Probe…”

The innards of a StarChase car-to-car darting system. Photo: WCPD

We’re old enough to remember the times when police and press were at least in sympathy with each others’ needs and the press tip toed around advancements in police technology so they’d at least have a sporting chance against a criminal element determined to outwit them.

Public Safety was the over-arching interest, after all. Those days, however, are disappearing from memory if not already entirely gone already as police departments – bashed by the press and public for far too long in their view – seek to control their own narratives and gradually restrict public access to police methods and operations.

From a tactical standpoint we get that. From a Public Interest standpoint we see it as dangerous and more than a little scary as the technological advances of “Minority Report” don’t seem all that far away.

Here is where we expect to find the divergence of opinion common to discourse today, with half of our readers saying “Damn, they can really do that?” while others remind us of the sweet old lady in the helicopter in “Close Encounters,” mouthing “But if the Army doesn’t want us here, then it’s none of our business” from behind her useless gas mask.

Our answer to the first question is “Yes, and they’re already doing it…” and, to the sweet Old Lady’s of the World: “Don’t you think that’s just a wee bit too… trusting?”

Because with all due respect to the “Stay Safers” and “Back the Blue” folks out there we say you can still back and support the police while demanding they be held accountable. They do hold a lot of power in their hands and, let’s face it, not all of them have exercised those powers in a democratic fashion of late.

Topping all that, despite the recent ballyhoo caused by the catchy but short-lived “Defund the Police” movement, our police departments are coming into a whole new generation of high-tech toys Tom Cruise would have found useful in his role as a futuristic crimefighter. Depending on your point of view, some may say: “Cool” while others might say, again: “Damn, they can really do that?”

Police Gizmos In Play
Car Darting Trackers – Broderick Crawford might have thought current use of a “pursuit reduction technology” that uses a GPS module fired from a police car onto a fleeing vehicle kinda sissified back in the day when a good, hard, rear-bumper tap would have been sufficient to end a chase. But this technology, notably “StarChase,” is marketed as a way to mitigate the inherent dangers of a chase by letting the gummy tracker do all the work – contemporary coppers just following the tell-tale signal to it’s source and at their own speed. Drawbacks: Like most new technology, StarChase doesn’t always work the way its meant to. The system needs time to “warm up” and the gummy modules shot between cars don’t always stick.

Aerial Drones – Far, but not that far, from the spidery automaton seekers of “Minority Report,” drones have come a long way in both civilian and police applications. Once the realm of the public park geeky, they are now regarded as essential crime-fighting tools – sent to places which may be unfriendly to human police officers. A drone was recently sent inside a crashed recreational vehicle to determine the life status of a potentially hostile driver in San Ramon (unconscious). Drones, or UAVs, are increasingly being used by police to gain aerial vantage points for crime scene work, search and rescue efforts, accident reconstruction, and crowd monitoring. Some of the more sophisticated models have been equipped with thermal imaging or 3D mapping software to offer GPS-enhanced precision to the areas being surveyed. Others have been equipped with zoom cameras, making them incredibly valuable for delivering actionable, real-time intel in high-risk, “armed and dangerous” situations. Drawbacks: They can and have been shot down. Also, some people, not happy with being tracked from above have developed countermeasures – such as umbrellas, to defeat camera systems.

Flock Cameras – Marketed as the first “smart camera” to see like a detective, these self-sustaining gizmos are positioned at key intersections to capture relevant information from passing cars. The cameras allow operating officers to search by vehicle make, color, type, license plate, state of the license plate, missing plate, covered plate, paper plate, and unique vehicle details like roof racks, bumper stickers, and anything else that might lead to an ID. In use and busy, the cameras have led to a number of significant arrests. Drawbacks: Concerns about police abuse of information, lack of oversight, and false readings leading to false arrests or potentially dangerous traffic stops. While helpful to law enforcement, there is data suggesting that the cameras have no impact on area crime rates.

Robots – Yep, though they’re not yet in use much locally and they won’t look like anything you’ve seen in the movies. Some police agencies are now using “throwable” next-generation robotic cameras to deliver visual and audio surveillance of building interiors in hostage scenarios. Powered by an electric motor and equipped with high-tech wheels that enable them to crawl, climb and explore these “bots” are able to explore even the most challenging spaces while being operated wirelessly by a trained officer. Additional applications for using robots in police work, now and on the near horizon, might include patrol bots like China’s “AnBot,” intended to patrol banks, airports and schools, and tourist attractions with a touchscreen-equipped robot officer such as one now on duty in Dubai. Drawbacks: As built, some of the next generation of police bots have proven notoriously simple to topple or maneuver into a nearby lake. We’re sure those weaknesses are being worked on.


  1. All valuable technologies and have their place in the arsenal. But, nothing like using a sap to the suspects head to get the info you want, The Firestone Way. 108RS

    • Ah, we almost drew on the old leather and lead “Police Persuader” but figured someone else would… and there you are!

      • You are making light of cracking a suspect in the head “to get the info you want”. I just don’t understand the joke. It is police state behavior, and the jeffr’s comments no longer shock. They are a daily norm now.

  2. A barbed dart with a hot glue chaser. A hellava idea for tracking journalists, photogs, and protesters. Binds exceedingly well to flesh. How we have evolved!

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