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New Report Presents 12-Point Plan for Adopting Police Technologies to Improve Law Enforcement

WASHINGTON—Technologies such as artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and drones are poised to improve law enforcement by making police more productive and effective, just as advances such as fingerprinting and two-way radios have in the past. Yet today’s so-called “police tech” faces opposition from civil libertarians and digital rights groups who conflate legitimate concerns about issues such as transparency and effectiveness with worst-case speculation about the potential for abuse and harm.

Against this backdrop, a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the leading think tank for science and technology policy, proposes a 12-point plan for the Department of Justice (DOJ), state lawmakers, and local police departments to accelerate testing and deployment of police technologies to maximize their benefits for public safety while minimizing their risks.

“It’s understandable that many Americans are worried about how police officers use emerging technologies. But the pendulum has swung too far toward anti-technology sentiments,” said Ashley Johnson, a senior policy analyst at ITIF, who co-authored the report. “Banning police tech, as some critics advocate, would eliminate opportunities not just to solve more crimes but also to improve officer training, reduce unnecessary violence, prevent bias, and improve accountability.”

The report provides a primer on different police technologies and how law enforcement currently uses them or may use them in the future. It then outlines and responds to the common criticisms of police tech, and presents a plan to advance adoption and address the legitimate concerns of police tech. The report recommends the following 12 steps:

DOJ should conduct independent testing of police tech that may display bias to guide police procurement.

DOJ should tie federal funding for police tech to baseline minimum cybersecurity requirements.

DOJ should establish a police tech grant challenge.

DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) should conduct more research on the effectiveness of police tech.

Congress should increase technology budgets for federal law enforcement agencies.

State lawmakers should regulate police data collection.

State lawmakers should pass transparency requirements for police departments.

More police departments should establish voluntary programs that allow residents to share doorbell camera footage.

Police departments should require officers to complete training programs before using new police tech.

Police departments should require officers to only use police tech as intended by its developers.

Police departments should mandate basic cyber hygiene training for all officers.

Police departments should conduct pilot studies on new police tech to ensure its effectiveness in the field.

“New technologies have been adopted by U.S. law enforcement since as early as the 1920s,” said Eric Egan, a policy fellow at ITIF, who co-authored the report. “Technologies like fingerprinting, two-way radios, and databases, have long been integral to solving crimes. There is no question that if officers were banned from using them many fewer crimes would be solved.”

The report examines how police tech can be used to prevent, respond to, and solve crime; keep officers safe; improve officer training; improve customer service; and maintain public oversight and accountability.

Among the most frequent criticisms of police tech, the report examines surveillance concerns, the potential misuse and abuse of technologies, bias, over-policing, lack of transparency, cybersecurity concerns, and questions of effectiveness. The analysis differentiates real-life examples of misconduct and harm from hypothetical criticisms based on “slippery slope” arguments and anti-technology sentiments. ITIF concludes that legitimate concerns around police tech should be addressed with rules and best practices for procurement and use.

“Even the most well-equipped police departments are only scratching the surface of possibilities when deploying police tech,” said Juan Londoño, a policy analyst at ITIF who co-authored the report. “As technology continues to improve and costs continue to decline, increased adoption of emerging tech by police departments will make law enforcement more efficient and effective and keep officers and civilians safe.”

Read the report.


The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute focusing on the intersection of technological innovation and public policy. Recognized by its peers in the think tank community as the global center of excellence for science and technology policy, ITIF’s mission is to formulate and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation and boost productivity to spur growth, opportunity, and progress.

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