NYPD testing out Google Glass for cops on patrol

NYPD testing out Google Glass for cops on patrol

Summary: Glass could become standard equipment for patrolling officers if a trial underway at New York City's Police Department is a success.

TOPICS: Google, Hardware

The New York City Police Department has bought a few Google Glass units to see if the networked headsets could be useful for officers on patrol.

Citizens in some US states have been given tickets for use Google Glass while driving, but in future those tickets could be issued by police wearing the hi-tech eyewear in vehicles or on the street.

According to VentureBeat, the New York City Police Department has confirmed it signed up and acquired "a few" of Google’s $1,500 Glass Explorer edition devices.

NYPD confirmed to ZDNet that it bought two Glass devices in December to assess their application in "existing technology-based functions". 

"As part of an on-going interest in the advancements in the field of technology, the NYPD regularly conducts reviews of various equipment, devices, programs and other consumer products for their potential application or utility in the area of policing," NYPD deputy commissioner, Stephen Davis, said in a statement.

"In December of 2013 the Department obtained two pairs of Google Glass and has been evaluating these devices in an attempt to determine any possible useful applications.  The devices have not been deployed in any actual field or patrol operations, but rather are being assessed as to how they may be appropriately utilized or incorporated into any existing technology-based functions." 


A Google spokesperson said it was not working with the police department, and that the Explorer program was open to anyone, Venture Beat said.

With an annual budget of $4.6bn and 34,600 officers on its payroll last year, the department's trial could potentially lead to a very large order for Google once the device leaves its closed beta.

New York's police wouldn't be the first law enforcement officers to try out Glass.  US company CopTrax claimed to have worked with the Byron, Georgia Police Department in a field trial last year, involving Glass devices equipped with its app for road patrols. The app was designed to capture video while patrolling and streaming it back to headquarters. 

Google is currently expected to begin selling the devices to the public later this year and has recently expanded its Glass frame range to support prescription lenses. It's still not clear whether Glass will be sold in markets outside the US yet. 

Facial recognition is one obvious application of Google Glass in law enforcement, however Google's current developer policy doesn't authorise such apps — at least not through official distribution channels. Its decision on the matter came after a US company Lamba Labs developed facial recognition for the device last year.

Despite the ban, the startup is releasing its app FaceRec for jailbroken Glass devices, Lambda Labs founder Stephen Balaban recently told Forbes.

More on Google Glass

Topics: Google, Hardware

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • They should be warned

    Half of the zdnet keyboard warriors are intending to punch each and every person they see wearing gg's.

    Someone really needs to warn the NYPD unless it was all hyperbole and in reality none of the scary k warriors will be lashing out at anyone (my prediction).
    Little Old Man
    • Assaulting an officer is illegal

      Actually, assaulting anyone is illegal, but if that person is a uniformed officer (there would be no reasonable expectation that a civilian would know an undercover officer, or a plainclothes detective BEFORE he/she shows a badge), the penalty is compounded.

      I believe that wearing Glass while driving should not be illegal per se, but accessing information not related to, and necessary to facilitate, driving should be illegal. Such information would include routing assistance (better to get it heads-up than on a screen off to the side), official news about traffic conditions, or making a call to report another driver's violation or in response to an Amber alert or Silver alert (by the time the reporting driver can pull over to use the phone, the lead would be lost, or an accident could have already occurred). If someone is arrested on suspicion (or better yet, in connection with an accident or another traffic violation), the log could legally be searched.

      But in confrontations with law enforcement, a person's Constitutional right to have witnesses in his/her favor would seem to forbid the legal compulsion to REMOVE one's own ability to show a jury what happened. The video recording is, in effect a witness, and showing a jury that an officer struck first while the defendant (or later, civil plaintiff) did not initiate violence, is the kind of evidence that police should not be able to destroy.
  • in other cities...

    A study in Rialto, CA showed there was an 87.5 percent decrease in complaints and a 59 percent reduction of use-of-force when officers wore cameras.

    The only part is that Google Glass has a terrible battery and recording times. Maybe they could extend the battery for this purpose.
  • how will they explain....

    how will they explain the camera going offline at just the time it would have confirmed or disproved an excessive force complaint, or anything else that would reflect badly on the officer wearing the Google Glass? Civilians may think they like the idea of having 24x7 playback of an officer's actions, but I doubt that many police officers will be enthusiastic about it.
    • Amend the Constitution if necessary

      to protect the right of the citizen to be recording the confrontation also, and forbid police from destroying the citizen's evidence before trial. Likewise, require police to keep recording gear online while performing their official duties, or explain why to a court and/or Internal Affairs.
  • Tax dollars well spent!

    Have you ever seen an officer drive by you while staring at the screen of his mobile data terminal? Isn't that a bit unsafe? Do you have any idea of the hours and money involved in spurious lawsuits against officers who were not wearing cameras. Do you think officers wearing streaming video would hang out at certain shops or restaurants? Do you think their often gruff attitudes would change if they were constantly monitored. How would courtroom testimony be improved and how much more quickly would cases be settled if every case was available on video? With all that improved efficiency, the drop in the crime rate is almost assured, as is recidivism. How about overtime costs for cases that are dragged out by defense attorneys.

    The potential for good is staggering