The New York City police, having recently suffered an incident in which a cop in plain clothes was shot and killed by his fellow officers, are reportedly looking for a tech solution to prevent such occurrences.
AP reports that the NYPD are consulting with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, after off-duty plod Omar Edwards, chasing a fleeing suspect in his civvies with gun in hand, was ordered to halt by a group of plainclothes detectives. When Edwards turned towards them, fellow copper Andrew Dunton shot him dead.
"We are scheduled to talk with the department next week," lab spokesman Geoff Harvey told the AP. "Up for discussion will be ideas, capabilities and their limitations. ... 'Why won't this work?' will likely be part of the talk."
The report has it that the NYPD are considering various systems to prevent what the military, very appropriately in this context, refer to as "blue-on-blue" shootings.
One approach would involve the use of RFID tags or similar tech carried by every officer, perhaps working with a data network to generate a real time plod-plot showing the location of every copper in New York. Officers would perhaps be able to consult a portable smartphone or PDA map on the fly, so realising that the armed man about to run around the corner ahead of them was actually a fellow minion of the law rather than a scofflaw ripe for a righteous bullet.
An alternative ploy being considered is the attachment of infrared beacons to police weapons, such that they would start broadcasting their presence as soon as they were unholstered. The same module would also contain a receiver, which would alert an officer to the presence of another cop with weapon drawn in line of sight.
Needless to say, the US and other militaries are already well down the road with their own ideas on this front. The UK's Ministry of Defence is trying to get British forces to show up on American "blue force tracker" kit at the moment, in fact. Meanwhile US efforts such as Land Warrior and the Ground Soldier Ensemble seek to use GPS satnav - perhaps enhanced with "Smart Boot" or other inertial-reckoning kit to work inside buildings - to show every soldier where his comrades are.
The US armed services may be presumed to resort to deadly force a lot more even than the NYPD, though, and they have more money to spread around too. Even so, their "blue force tracker" kit doesn't have any capability to prevent individual footsoldiers shooting each other - suggesting that perhaps the forces don't see a need for it to do so. On the other hand, US troops don't operate out of uniform as commonly as policemen do.
Perhaps the NYPD will actually move forward with blue-on-blue prevention tech faster than the military.
The AP report can be read here. ®