News Column

Police Departments Eye Google Glass

February 18, 2014

By Brandon Carte, USA TODAY

A model wears the Google Glass.
A model wears the Google Glass.

Police departments throughout the U.S. are considering whether to equip their officers with Google Glass.

New York City Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton confirmed the department is already using the smart glasses during a news conference this month.

"We're in the process of field-testing that technology in a variety of circumstances, seeing where -- if useful -- where it might be most useful, most beneficial," he said.

In December 2013, the NYPD obtained two pairs of the glasses, Deputy Commissioner Stephen Davis said.

In an e-mail, Davis said the department regularly takes a look at emerging technology as a potential tool for policing. Glass has not been deployed in actual patrol operations, he said.

Currently, Google Glass is only available through the Glass Explorer Program in which those who feast their eyes on Glass apply online to become a part of the project. If approved by Google, Explorers can purchase the device for $1,500.

Google said in a statement the company did not actively approach and is not working with any law enforcement agency to offer tryouts of Google Glass.

"The Glass Explorer program includes people from all walks of life, including doctors, firefighters and parents," read Google's statement. "Anyone can sign up to become a Glass Explorer. The only requirements we have is that he or she is a U.S. resident and over the age of 18."

The Los Angeles Police Department also applied to be Google Explorers, said police Sgt. Dan Gomez, who oversees the Tactical Technology Section for LAPD.

"We are looking to see how it could work and that doesn't mean it will be used for patrol," he said. "It could be used for other purposes, but it's hard to say what we would do without having it," Gomez said.

Eric Farris, a police sergeant with the Byron, Ga., police department has tested Glass and said he thinks it could serve as a tool to solve investigations.

CopTrax, a surveillance vendor, collaborated with the Byron police department to provide officers with Glass during routine traffic enforcement patrol, stops issuing citations, arrests and during firearms practice.

"They had the CopTrax software loaded into the Google Glass and everything recorded with Glass was then recorded back to our camera system and police cruisers," Farris said.

The San Francisco Police Department is in the process of outfitting its plainclothes officers with body cameras and won't rule out Glass just yet.

"We have been looking at video cameras," said Gordon Shyy, a public information officer at SFPD. "I don't believe Google Glass is one of those, but we always look at any possibility with the current technology."

Jay Stanley, a privacy expert and senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the union supports the use of police body cameras, including Glass.

"If they have the right privacy policy in place, it can be a win," he said. "Google Glass could protect the police and protect the citizens from abusive police practices," Stanley said.

Stanley's only concern with Glass is that the device can also display information.

"I'm not sure if people would like police to be able to go around and do facial recognition and stick labels and risk scores on them," he said.

Original headline: Police departments have their eye on Google Glass

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Source: Copyright 2014 USA TODAY

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