NYPD Takes Google Glass Out on Patrol


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Photo Credit: Digital Trends

Well, I guess this was inevitable. The cops are taking Google Glass out for a spin, in what I suppose is the first, ever-so-slight step towards RoboCop becoming a reality.

From the sounds of it, according to a VentureBeat report, the NYPD doesn’t have too specific of an idea of how they want to use Glass – but it sure seems like it could be useful. New York’s police force has secured a few units through the Explorer program, and will start testing them out on patrols. Some officials think Glass could help with facial recognition of suspects, drawing up warrants or rap sheets to accompany the identification of the suspect. It could also serve the same function as a dash cam, only more useful – video records through an officer’s point of view would make written reports largely unnecessary.

How you react to this, of course, depends on where you are on the spectrum of trust in authority. That said, it seems like Glass might not have all that much of an impact. The image – a cop with a face computer – is certainly laden with all sorts of connotations, but I’m not sure they’re warranted. Glass, at least in its current iteration, wouldn’t open up too many more possibilities than a smartphone would (which some police departments, like San Francisco’s, already use on patrol). The ease of using facial recognition software with Glass is striking, especially when paired with the government’s extensive spy programs and the co-opting of major tech players in said programs. If you don’t trust the government, granted, that probably doesn’t sit well with you.

But, I think Glass in the police might have some positive social effects, if the debate is indeed framed as police versus people, as it so often is. Glass would open up the possibility for streaming video from the eyes of officers. Instead of relying on police reports that may or may not be accurate, video would provide incontrovertible evidence of what happened in a given interaction, should things go to court. There’s less room for bias, and if this leads to more accurate, fairer evidence in the judicial system, that seems like a pretty good thing. If use of Glass became widespread, you’d no longer have to worry about pitting your word against the police. Streaming video could even contribute to in-the-moment oversight at department headquarters.

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The NYPD is just getting started on testing, and there are some who don’t think the high-tech eyewear will be of much use at all. We’ll have to see how things play out in the long run, but one thing’s for sure – if the cops are wearing them, it’ll be a lot harder to get pulled over for driving with Glass.