Back in the 1980s, the movie Robocop painted a bleak picture about how the filmmakers saw the future of law enforcement. Set in Detroit – arguably relatively accurately portrayed as a mostly abandoned, lawless city, now owned by the all-present Omni Consumer Products, and earmarked to be torn down and rebuilt as “Delta City”, the film explores ideas of how technology will be used in the future of crime prevention and law enforcement. On the one hand OCP has developed its own Enforcement Droids, series 209 – a military weapon adapted for civilian use, which looks a bit like a walking tank and hasn’t yet learned to respond to the subtleties of human behavior. On the other hand, after a demonstration of ED209’s capabilities goes wrong in the downtown headquarters of OCP, resulting in the gruesome death of one of its senior executives, OCP begins to develop its plan B – Robocop – a cyborg with an armored body and directives to uphold the law (unless it’s against a senior executive of OCP).
Well, the first Robocop movie was made around thirty years ago, during which time policing hasn’t noticeably changed very much, visually speaking. We are, however, on the verge of a technological revolution in law enforcement and we have a pretty good idea of what policing is going to look like in years to come. So, did Robocop get it right?
Well, in some ways yes. We are going to see the incorporation of new technological devices into every day police work – not just tablets replacing the cop’s pen and pen, but suspect identification devices such as face scanners, specifically retina scanners – a technology that Robocop put to good use when hunting down the bad guys of old Detroit. When you look at a cop’s visor, it will scan your retina and perform an instant search and match for any records held about you – previous convictions, outstanding warrants and so on. The cop won’t need to ask your name, age, date of birth, where you’re from or any of that kind of information – they’ll know a lot about you as soon as they look at you as they’ll have all of that information displayed to them on their HUD.
Drones, already being put to use in the military, are being adapted for use in law enforcement. Drones just like the ones you see at http://www.rotorcopters.com/, armed with video and infra-red cameras and a sub-machine gun plus other attachments can be used in police chases to pursue suspects, they can be used to enter buildings in which suspects are believed to be hiding out, or in which illegal activity may be taking place, they can be used to quickly end mass shootings and terrorist incidents, along with the capability to disarm bombs and explosive devices and deliver emergency aid and equipment to disaster areas. It may be the case that when you accidentally click on a suspicious internet link in the future, it will only be a matter of seconds until an automated police drone enters your room through your window and places you under arrest at gunpoint.
Even more interesting are the weapons that drones can be fitted with. Ideas that are currently being promoted for use on police trucks and cars may well be fitted to drones in the future. These include what’s called the “Active Denial System”, better known to civilians as the microwave cannon. Much like the water cannon, it is designed to keep angry mobs and protestors at bay and therefore ensure the safety of corporate and government executives and, more importantly, their property. The microwave cannon does what it says on the tin – instead of spraying crowds with water, it sprays them with microwave rays which cause instant pain and ceases the mob in its tracks.
One more interesting feature of future policing is the smart allocation of police resources. Information stored on all of us, including our job history, lifestyle choices, who we associate with and other information will be used to carry out predictive policing. This means that before a crime has been committed, police will be 70% sure they know who did it. In theory, you could be rounded up and interrogated before you’ve even had the chance to put your evil plan into action!