Meet Future Cop

When the roll is called at your local police station in the 21st Century, experts agree the cop of the future will look far different than the cop of today, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart.

Gone will be that heavy Sam Bowie belt, for example. There won't be any more wooden batons, either. No more pepper spray. No heavy bullet-resistant vest. No stainless-steel handcuffs. And maybe not even a gun as we know it.

In fact, compared to today's officer, Future Cop will look downright defenseless. But don't be deceived.

"He'll actually have a greater capability. He'll have more kinds of devices on his person - but they're going to be a lot smaller," says David Boyd of the National Institute of Justice.

So here he is, say the experts: For starters, the bulletproof vest of the future will be as thin as a cotton T-shirt. He'll still wear a uniform over it, but it'll be more business-like. His firearm will be a powerful non-lethal stun gun. And nearly everything else will be stored in his badge, which will actually be a powerful computer, camera and communicator all rolled into one.

"So he might have his radio. He might have his global positioner that tells the dispatcher where he is located, tells him whether he is in trouble or not," says Boyd. "He might have a miniature camera that is videotaping exactly what is happening, so he can call back and say, 'Hey, Sarge, I've got a problem.'"

And when Future Cop does run into a problem, he'll have far more tools at his disposal than today. Instead of searching a crime scene by hand for DNA evidence, for example, a special camera may pinpoint it immediately. And DNA, says Dr. Lisa Forman, is the key to all future crime solving. Give her a drop of DNA in the future, and she'll give you the suspect.

"Technically, your DNA will be able to tell an investigator a picture of who left that DNA - of what you look like if you left your DNA at a crime scene," Forman says.

Not a police artist rendering based on what witnesses say, mind you, but what the genetic code says the actual face of the suspect should look like. And in the future, that wanted face can be programmed into computers that are connected to cameras throughout the city, much as they already are in London today - tireless computer cameras that will search a sea of faces until they find the one they're looking for.

Machines, in fact, will help police handle not only their routine duties in the future, but also the most dreaded of all encounters, like a hostage or barricade situation. Some of the members of tomorrow's SWAT teams, for example, will be robots, only not the type you might expect.

The police robot of the future ca go virtually anywhere, even be fired through a window, and feed back information. Other versions can literally snake their way through duct pipes to a suspect, and they're only the start. Future versions, called micro-electric-mechanical-systems, or MIMs, will be even smaller.

"MIMs are like tiny spiders. They're literally robotic spiders, the size of a microchip," says Boyd.

"I believe we will have those at the point where you could release a handful under a door and they would crawl through the room, or go up the walls. They will be able to send back images. They're going to be able to send back voices or attach themselves to a sock, much the way a small insect might."

In 50 years, the people we charge with solving our crimes may literally be able to see through walls, peer miles into the distance and, with the aid of computers, speak every language known to man. And they will still - most experts agree - be among America's lowest paid social servants.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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