Emily Anne Epstein / Metro
January 18, 2012 1:18 a.m.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced that the NYPD is pursuing a controversial new technology in the war against illegal guns: body-scanning devices.
“There are still far too many guns in New York, too many murders, and too many shootings,” Kelly said in his annual State of the NYPD address yesterday morning. “We employ the long-established right of the police to stop and question individuals about whom we have reasonable suspicion … But we need to do even more.”
Kelly said the NYPD, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, is working to develop a tool capable of detecting concealed firearms.
The device can read radiation, or heat, emitted from a person’s body. The radiation does not travel through metal, allowing officers to “see” the outline of hidden weapons.
“We hope to utilize the sensor as soon as it meets our requirements,” Kelly said.
The NYPD is testing the new scanners, which currently only work from three to four feet away. Kelly said he’s hoping they will soon operate at a distance of more than 80 feet. Police will install the scanners onto NYPD vans to direct at suspects.
But some are concerned that the NYPD will abuse its new power. Donna Lieberman, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, sees the new technology as a double-edged sword.
“On the one hand, if technology like this worked as it was billed, New York City should see its stop-and-frisk rate drop by a half-million people a year,” said Lieberman. “On the other hand, the ability to walk down the street free from a virtual police pat-down is a matter of privacy.”
Sean Barry of VOCAL-NY, a grassroots advocacy group, fears the NYPD will use the scanners to harass minorities.
“The NYPD will just repeat the same pattern of racially biased policing we’ve seen … in black and Latino communities,” Barry said.