APB and the Promise of Public Safety

How many of our problems are technical, resource-related? How many are social, constitutional, all of the above? The premise of this new Fox series called APB has the potential to explore some of these questions.

Television is an interesting medium; partly because it doesn’t have to deal with things like the 4th amendment. It doesn’t have the limitations of existing technology and it has the advantage of being driven by a script where the writers know how everything fits together before things even get started.

The best shows, however, do certain things for us. They show us a vision of what might be and allows us to think about what it might mean to us if the world were so. I don’t know if this is going to be one of those shows, but I will tell you that there are a couple of interesting ideas that are worthy of discussion.

Though not directly addressed in the pilot episode, we have the real, cost-effective technology today to do some pretty amazing things. One of these concepts is to post a drone at 17,000 feet and monitor everything that takes place on surface streets of a typical city in real time. What is more, the technology allows for long-term storage of this feed so that we can trace events in either direction from the time and place of a crime. If criminals are on the street, they would be captured moving from place to place and their movements would be potentially exploitable. The obstacle to every municipal police department deploying one of these things, is the 4th amendment.

One of the things that were addressed in the pilot episode was the introduction of more effective non-lethal weapons. The standard issue appears to be a taser that is as easy to aim at close range as a semiautomatic pistol. The effectiveness of tasers in terms of range and their ability to efficiently subdue a suspect must be improved in order for them to effectively replace lethal firearms, but I personally believe that this is the wave of the future.

With the proper gear, we don’t need to execute suspects on the street even if they are armed and pose a legitimate threat. The solutions that technology like this would solve are immeasurable. It is the mission of the police to apprehend suspects. Even if those suspects are in the act of attempted murder, it would not be necessarily to kill them if they could be disabled and neutralized as effectively or even more effectively than with a bullet.

The relations between the police and the people they serve would be immensely improved especially in places where high-profile mistakes are made leaving unarmed civilians dead.

At any rate, a show like this has potential, but especially if it spends significant time addressing social issues around technology within reach over the coming decade or so. Improvements to the criminal justice system can change the future to one where public safety is preserved as police force effectiveness gets even better.

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