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Wearable Technologies for Law Enforcement: Multifunctional Vest System Options

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2017
32 pages
Part of an ongoing research program on the high priority research needs of criminal justice agencies, this report focuses on wearable technologies for law enforcement.
This focus stems from the finding that approximately one-third of the top-tier technology needs identified in workshops with criminal justice practitioners and academics could be addressed by these technologies. Among the challenges faced by law enforcement officers with wearable technologies are the size and weight of equipment they must carry, the proliferation of batteries for electronic devices, the need for mounting and docking systems for body-worn cameras (BWCs), and the need for comfort and flexibility while wearing body armor underneath uniforms. This study of the field of wearable technologies with the potential to benefit law enforcement officers found that they are currently available at a reasonable cost. Also, more sophisticated wearable technologies are under development and are rapidly improving. In addition, law enforcement agencies' access to portable, reliable, uninterrupted power in the field is currently feasible, and this will likely be more accessible in the future. The availability of broadband data and communication in the field is likely to improve rapidly. There are technologies being adopted by some law enforcement agencies that pose significant policy challenges. Examples of this are real-time access to personal data and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles ("drones"). Regarding the feasibility of some wearable technologies for officers in the field, bulk and appearance matter and can be significant factors in their adoption. This report advises that law enforcement agencies should currently consider how to engage with manufacturers of such technology regarding their current and future research, development, and design, so that the unique challenges and opportunities of law enforcement officers are taken into account. 7 figures, 5 tables, and a 131-item bibliography

Date Published: January 1, 2017