Police technology in the past century has evolved to include global databases and DNA evidence, but advancement typically is slow. Law enforcement equipment manufacturers often fear liability for misuse of surveillance and incapacitation devices.
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Police work was aided a great deal with the introduction of fingerprinting technology in the 1900s and crime labs in the 1920s, according to Raymond Foster, of the website Police Technology. Soon afterward, two-way radios, automobiles and traffic radars helped police, but Foster says law enforcement has "lagged behind other sectors" technologically since then.
Since the 1970s, Foster says, law enforcement has maintained a national set of standards for police equipment. Newer technologies, like night vision, x-ray, voice scrambling and metal detection equipment, became regulated, as did older equipment, such as handcuffs, helmets, shields and body armour.
The 1970s also saw the computerisation of police departments. Computer-aided dispatch and data management had spread to most precincts by the 1990s. Major related advancements include DNA testing, GPS tracking and mapping crime patterns.
Some technologies are used specifically for police, and manufacturers fear liability for their misuse. Foster says concealed weapons detection devices could lead to invasion of privacy and, in some cases, "less-than-lethal" incapacitation devices can cause bodily injuries or fatalities.
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