Futuristic Police Technologies That Are Actually Being Used

photo by imbphoto24 via Flickr

As proper media consumptive Americans, we see police technology all the time–think basic cable; lab coat clad forensic analyst ponders crimes amidst beakers of mysterious neon liquids.

But as riveting as TV crime drama tech often is, the reality of police gadgetry is often even more spectacular. Below are some commonplace police tools, from the technologically savvy, to the downright orwellian. Felons beware.

Crime Lights

A flashlight is a key component of any detectives arsenal, but when the difference between a solvable crime and a cold case is just a hair fiber away, not just any light will do.

Powerful Ultraviolet flashlights have revolutionized the way detectives uncover crucial evidence. UV light can illuminate elements of a crime scene that are often unnoticeable to the human eye–from blood stains, to DNA, and even subcutaneous bruises.

Judging by the commercial availability, you can probably count on your local police department having at least a few of these handheld lights lying around.

Pick one up at your local hardware store and scan your bills for counterfeiting… If you’re into that sort of thing.


Don’t worry, we’re not talking about the zapping kind. Some police are now employing the use of handheld laser spectroscopy devices that can analyze and judge the chemical composition of just about any substance on the street.

Police are using these handheld chemical analyzers to help properly identify narcotics quickly and efficiently in the field (as opposed to the traditional and cumbersome method of lab analysis). A popular brand called TruNarc can even analyze multiple substances simultaneously in attempt to save time.

If price is any indication, TruNarc technology likely hasn’t found its way into the hands of your local police department as of yet. In 2012, one unit cost about $20,000.

Do you feel like you’re living in the movie Robocop yet?

Automatic License Plate Recognition Software

Yeah your car is unregistered, but you’ll be fine. I mean, as long as you’re driving you’re in the clear anyway, right? Wrong. Automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) software is becoming increasingly more common amongst police nationwide.

ALPR technology like 3M enables officers to automatically scan the license plates of both moving and stationary vehicles while instantaneously cross referencing said plates against a comprehensive database. 3M also states that ALPR can be used for “data mining efforts,” i.e. referencing criminal travel patterns with police intelligence data.

According to the ACLU, the use of ALPR is almost ubiquitous. As a recent report points out, even innocent motorists’ information and travel patterns are being tracked and stored for later usage–sans consent, of course.

Thermal Imaging

Even in the darkest of night, some criminals aren’t safe anymore. Recently police have begun utilizing thermal imaging technology that can help locate suspects even in the darkest of conditions.

Thermal imagers are used in a myriad of police scenarios, including finding suspects, search and rescue missions, and suspect surveillance. Many thermal imagers are significantly more compact than previous models–most being handheld–but some are even equipped to helicopters to surveill large swaths of land or sea. The size and price of such imagers has made them fairly widespread amongst police departments.

From a criminal standpoint, this stuff is pretty hard to beat (unless you go full-on Rambo

K-9 Cams

Eat your heart out Robocop, there’s a new technologized police on the street–one with an extra set of legs. Recently, cameras and audio devices have been utilized to remotely command and control police K-9 units.

Police tech company, Tactical Electronics, gives officers a mountable camera that helps K-9 handlers see through the eyes of their four-legged counterparts. Also available, is a command kit which allows controlling officers to deliver orders through a vest fitted with nodes that deliver commands via varying vibrations.


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James Pero