High-Tech Policing

April 21, 2017 • Volume 27, Issue 15
Are new surveillance technologies effective and legal?
By Barbara Mantel


1840s–1950sPolice departments become more professional.
1845New York City establishes first police department with 800 officers. Boston and Philadelphia soon follow.
1905August Vollmer, champion of a movement to professionalize policing, becomes police chief in Berkeley, Calif., and pioneers squad cars, police radios and crime labs.
1929President Herbert Hoover establishes a national commission on law enforcement; it finds that brutality and corruption pervade Prohibition-era policing.
1950sMost police now patrol in squad cars.
1960s–1990sPolice adopt community policing.
1965Race riot erupts in the Watts section of Los Angeles, the first of many inner-city riots over the next four years.
1967President Lyndon B. Johnson's Crime Commission recommends police improve community relations…. His National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders blames race riots on white racism and hostility between police and inner-city communities…. In United States v. Katz, U.S. Supreme Court says police need warrants to wiretap public phone booths.
1973New York City Police Department (NYPD) installs closed-circuit television cameras in Times Square.
1979Flint, Mich., police officers begin to walk beats; it is part of an emerging community policing movement that seeks to rebuild trust and improve public safety by deemphasizing vehicular patrols.
1983In United States v. Knotts, Supreme Court upholds police's warrantless use of a hidden beeper to track a suspect's car.
1984Supreme Court rules a warrant is required when police place a beeper inside a home.
1994President Bill Clinton embraces community policing and vows to put 100,000 new police officers on the street.
2001–PresentPolice adopt powerful technologies to deter crime.
2001Survey finds 41 percent of local police departments and 66 percent of state police use fixed-site closed-circuit cameras…. Supreme Court rules police must get a warrant before using thermal-imaging technology to obtain information from inside a home.
2002Washington, D.C., begins building one of the first centrally monitored, citywide closed-circuit television surveillance systems.
2007Nineteen percent of surveyed law enforcement agencies report using license-plate readers.
2008NYPD secretly begin using cell-site simulators — portable devices that allow investigators to locate individuals by capturing signals from their cellphones.
2012Eighty-five percent of law enforcement agencies say they plan to purchase or expand the use of license-plate readers.
2013Police in Rialto, Calif., are first to use body cameras…. Seattle ordinance requires city council to give police guidance when purchasing surveillance technology.
2014Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., shoots to death unarmed black teenager Michael Brown and ignites street protests; civil liberties groups and citizens call for police nationwide to adopt body cameras to record encounters with the public.
2015Ninety-seven percent of surveyed major police and sheriff's departments say they are moving forward with body cameras.
2016Santa Clara County, Calif., gives elected officials the right to veto law enforcement purchases of surveillance technology.
2017Several cities, including New York, consider measures to oversee police technology purchases and usage.

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Document APA Citation — See Alternate Citation Style
Mantel, B. (2017, April 21). High-tech policing. CQ researcher, 27, 337-360. Retrieved from
Document ID: cqresrre2017042104
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