Recent advantages in technology have the potential to greatly increase the safety of LEOs in the field. However, some highly promising technology is so controversial that its use may be limited.
One such example is that of the personal radar devices. The most widely used is the Range-R. This technology lets LEOs detect movement through walls. The radar is so sensitive that it can detect a person breathing from about 50 feet away.
Nearly 50 law enforcement agencies quietly started using this technology in the field. Police and federal officers can monitor buildings to determine the location of suspects before they enter the premises. This ability is invaluable for officers who need to storm buildings or determine the location of hostages.
However, the public was unaware that LEOs used these devices until December 2014. That’s when a Denver federal appeals court said that officers had used one to see into a house before they arrested a man who had violated his parole. However, the agents had used the technology without a search warrant which “poses grave Fourth Amendment questions” according to the judge.
Since then, more advanced radars that were originally used in Iraq and Afghanistan have come on the market for law enforcement agencies in the US. One such device can create 3-D displays of where people are in a building, while another can be mounted on a drone.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution generally prevents police from using a thermal camera to scan the outside of a house unless they have a warrant back in 2001. The Court specifically stated that their ruling would apply to radar devices then under development.
Ideally personal radar devices can be used by law enforcement agencies to safeguard their personnel in dangerous operations as long as they first obtain a warrant. However, privacy advocates remain skeptical about whether this will be the case.
It appears that this potentially life-saving technology will be the subject of court cases to determine whether it should be used or not.