Sci-fi Cops

Minority report is a sci-fi movie based around the ability of law enforcement to predict when and where a crime will occur and prevent it from happening. They achieve this through the use of beings who can predict the near future. It’s a fascinating theory for discussion – if a crime hasn’t actually been committed yet, then how can you arrest someone for it? Could those foreseeing the future ever make a mistake? While, we’re not quite there yet in terms of technology, looking at possible future advances for our police force raises some interesting questions.

New technologies such as electronic notebooks, autonomous crowd monitoring, sensor networks and augmented reality have all been put forward as ways to greatly assist police in their work. Electronic notebooks will allow officers to check a suspect’s criminal record while they are at a crime scene and sensor networks help them to covertly track people and their vehicles. Police are already wearing Body Worn Cameras to capture evidence and record their interactions with the public. For more information, visit

A more cutting edge approach is the monitoring of crown movement and how crowds behave. The system was originally developed to aid public safety during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, where thousands of people descend into one area. Digital cameras, connected to computers watch crowds and have software that can offer real-time analysis of the crowd’s movements. It works by using an algorithm to detect human heads and analyses how they move from one frame to another, which it then uses to predict movement.

Small, lightweight drones can be effective in place of helicopters, which are expensive to run. As far back as 2010, Merseyside Police were the first to use a drone in the arrest of a suspected car thief. This air robot was deployed after officers lost the offender in thick fog. Imagine how much quicker and cheaper it would be to deploy drones to incapacitate offenders until the police get there?

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Many police vehicles are already fitted with sensors which offer a whole host of information, from driver behaviour to engine efficiency. Sensors are also used in the APLS (automatic person location systems) which help to locate an officer who has been injured or to feedback information.

Instead of the electronic tagging of offenders, police have tested out tracking the movements of people using GPS. They have also begun to use this system for dementia patients too, as a quarter of all missing persons reports relate to dementia patients. It is said to be cost effective but does it feel a little bit like treating people as cattle?

Technology shouldn’t mean the police lose touch with their community focus and it could be argued that too much reliance on technology will eventually ‘deskill’ our officers, who will be like automatons, blindly following information drawn from systems. Another question is how much information can one officer digest in one go and interact with?