Google Glass now creeping its way into law enforcement

American police forces among lucky few to test Google’s innovative device

By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor

Two law enforcement agencies in the United States count themselves lucky to be among a few thousand beta testers of Google’s new device, Glass.

Google Glass combines wireless connectivity with fashion, as the innovative eyewear can take video, send messages, and display maps and other information found on the Internet, all with a simple voice command.

Police units in New York City and a small town in Georgia are the only two law enforcement agencies in North America to have been selected by Google to test Google Glass. As of 2013, there were about 10,000 devices that had been distributed to beta testers who had submitted bids on how they planned to test the device. Testers had to pay $1,500 for the device, which is also the expected price Google will set for Glass once it becomes widely available to the general public.

A ranking officer with the New York Police Department (NYPD) told that they are looking into Google Glass’ effectiveness in criminal police work.

“We signed up, got a few pairs of the Google glasses, and we’re trying them out, seeing if they have any value in investigations, mostly for patrol purposes,” said the NYPD official.

Google Glass’ use in law enforcement is not without some controversy. Though the American Civil Liberties Association (ACLU) has generally supported police using the device, they are demanding that measures be put into place to ensure that officers are unable to tamper with any video recorded by Glass. The ACLU has said that the device would ensure that the public is protected from abuse of police powers.

“The most important thing we call for is that body cameras not be subject to individual officers editing on the fly,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU, to Time Magazine. “That would trump the advantage for citizens for oversight over the police officer.”

Some law enforcement agencies in the United States are experimenting with a system of body cameras, which are attached to an officer’s vest. The cameras—which support the widespread use of dashboard cameras on police cruisers—allow the recording of everything from a routine traffic stop to an on-foot pursuit, all from the perspective of the officer.

The testing of Google Glass by the NYPD is timely, especially since in August 2013 a federal judge found New York City’s “stop and frisk” law to be unconstitutional, as many officers employed racial profiling.

Glass may also have some administrative applications in policing as well. Having video records of police interventions may eliminate the need for exhaustive police paperwork in the future, allowing officers to focus more on frontline policing rather than the desk job.