Policing Technological enhancements: Pros and cons

In recent news, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced an enhancement to 911 emergency services for individuals with hearing and speech impairments (crtc.gc.ca). The innovation enables mobile phones to send a text message to 911 operators in case of emergencies (globalnews.ca). Normally, they would use an outdated, bulky teletypewriter system (TTY) that only compatible with a telephone handset. Also, they could use videophone technology but it has its limitations. Without a broadband connection, there is no way of reaching anyone, including the authorities. The texting solution removes the limited access to such an important service that is critical to the health and safety of all Canadians, said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC (crtc.gc.ca). The deaf and hearing impaired community no longer needs to rely on other non-deaf persons. The technology has been introduced in the U.S. for sometime, but is newly making its way through Canada. Cities such as Edmonton and Calgary have begun implementing the system. In 2012, trials for the service were being performed in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal with the help of volunteers (business.financialpost.com). The system will only work once hearing or speech impaired persons register for the service with their wireless service provider. In case of emergency, registered users must first dial 911. The 911 operator will then receive a notification to communicate with them via text message (crtc.gc.ca).

Many could argue that technological advancements cause more harm than not. For instance, the cellphone is reputed for creating distractions that can often lead to devastating car accidents, as well as hindering the creation social interactions by turning its users into zombies. Despite the negative components of technology, its marvels serve a beneficial purpose. Mobile phones have become an indispensable every day accessory. The capabilities of smart phones and personal devices continues to grow, so to will the need for standardized, compatible communication accessories that fit a wide range of devices. (policeone.com). Not only have they proven useful for the deaf and hearing impaired, but also for citizens in general. It can be used for recording criminal incidences or snapping a picture of the vehicle of a reckless and dangerous driver. Smart phones have similarly been integrated into the work of public and safety officials. For instance, in the works is the development of a fire-rescue smart phone that has a strobe light feature that aids in locating firemen through dense smoke. Furthermore, police smartphones may have super-strength cameras that can take pictures of  license plates from far distances. Another example is with the use of the iPad. It isn’t just for writing speeding tickets anymore. The CrimePad app is designed to make a complete electronic record of a crime scene (visionnations). Essentially, the possibilities are truly endless (policeone.com). 

There is a myriad amount of technological advancement related to law enforcement, notably, the ability to text 911. Texting is nothing new, but it is through it that we are able to use it for other means. Furthermore, the bullet has been replaced. The Taser gun is an electrical pistolet made to stun with 50,000 volts at a relatively close range those who do not comply with law enforcers. According to Toronto’s Community Safety Minister, Madeleine Meilleur, the decision to give all frontline officers a taser gun is one that will save lives. A contrario, the Taser gun will not be used in cases where there is a justifiable threat of serious injury or bodily harm to the latter, the public or the person they are confronting (Thestar.com). Moreover, electronic surveillance is nothing else but on the rise. In the UK, there is one CCTV camera for every 32 individuals (theguardian.com). The main pressure for increased video surveillance comes from various community groups, such as business owners and citizens rather than from government and public institutions (www.priv.gc.ca). Nevertheless, whether on public or private soil, people are watched by the ‘Friendly Eye in the Sky’ or a closed-circuit television. This technology is to deter those who have the intention of committing a crime and to observe those with suspicious demeanours.

So far, we have taken into consideration how technology serves a useful purpose for the community and law enforcement officials. But what about how it can create a variety of problems for good-natured citizens? The wonderful technology of computers facilitates the perpetration of some serious cyber crimes, such as fraud and identity theft, phishing scams, copyright infringement, the spread of child pornography, harassment, threats, and so forth. Theft of intellectual property costs American companies $250 billion a year. The claim that cyber crime cost $1 trillion dollars had been retracted (propublica.org). As safety measures, anti-spyware and firewalls are recommended, but they are not always full proof.

As conclusive remarks, technology can certainly serve a beneficial purpose. For instance, some people do not have at their convenience the means to make lifesaving phone calls due to a disability. They either have to rely on outdated systems or on the people closest to them when an emergency occurs. consequently, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, an organization mandated by the federal Government for regulating broadcasting and telecommunications, solved this dilemma by implementing mobile phone texting to 911. Technology has its pros but also has its cons. The advantage for the deaf and hearing impaired to text 911 is in cases of emergency that does not involve them personally. To what benefit is it if someone is gravely hurt, but needs to await a text in order to community with operators and to find the physical capacity to text back? Regarding the Taser gun, it must be used with caution since its excessive use resulted in the death of Robert Dziekansky. Because the Taser is marketed as a nonlethal weapon, depending of course, on how many times it is deployed, officers often use it on unruly suspects, not only as an alternative to deadly force. It was reported that officers had tasered a 9-year-old girl and a 66-year-old woman in Kansas City. (charlydmiller.com). As for surveillance cameras, observation is not done, unfortunately, at random. The study conducted by Clive Norris concluded that surveillance is very stereotypical. Highly discretionary operators will focus on categories of individuals such that their gender, age and race are taken into consideration. Ironically, black operators will target young black individuals, when they only account for 9% of those arrested. Surveillance cameras may reassure those behind the monitor, but makes those targeted feel like they are a threat and cannot be trusted (CCTV and the Social Structuring of Surveillance). Despite the problems technology may entice, it should still be regarded as a problem-solving tool.