What Technologies on Police Shows Do Real-Life Cops Wish They Had?

The best answer to any question.
Feb. 24 2014 8:20 AM

What Technologies on Police Shows Do Real-Life Cops Wish They Had?

A forensic scientist uses a UV lamp to look for evidence on a garment in a French police laboratory. This could take a while, at least in the U.S.

Photo by Phillippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

This question originally appeared on Quora.


Answer by Justin Freeman, former patrol officer:


Just off the top of my head:

Minority Reportesque computer workstations. What we actually use are either Toughbook laptops (in patrol vehicles) or plain-Jane vanilla desktop computers. And if one is messed up, either fix it or move—IT response, at least where I worked, was glacial.

Same-day forensics processing. Lab results take weeks to months, even for something as simple as verifying that suspected marijuana is, in fact, marijuana. The quick-flip DNA analysis is fantasy. Fingerprints can be done quicker in some cases, but not most other forensics.

Rush requests on forensics analysis. This might be different in a gargantuan department like the NYPD, but forensics requests got shipped off to a state lab here, and as far as I know, the material going in was first in, first out. Nobody on the department had any pull with the lab to leapfrog material from other agencies.

Nonstandardized patrol vehicles. I have to suppress a groan every time the CSI: Miami crew pulls up in a mint-condition Hummer H2, or when Danny is running code in a brand-new Camaro in Hawaii Five-O. In the real world, if you're a patrol officer, you're probably in a marked patrol vehicle with a light bar; if you're a patrol supervisor or commander or a detective, you're in an unmarked patrol car. Homicide divisions may have different vehicles, but they're not going to be glitzy—they'll range from late-model Ford Explorers up to gutted and converted Econoline vans, decommissioned ambulances, or freight truck–shaped jobs.

Prescient partners. I once watched Detective Goren on Law & Order: Criminal Intent blow a case wide open, if I remember correctly, by noting accelerated molar wear on one side of the victim's mouth, which he claimed was significant because people tend to chew on the side of their dominant hand. Or something to that effect. Horatio Caine on CSI: Miami is good for these bizarre epiphanies, too.

Partners, period. In more than two years of patrol, I rode in an Adam unit (two officers to a vehicle) exactly one time. We just didn't have staffing or budgets for it. Sheriff's deputies had it even worse—not only did they not ride Adam, their backup was often miles away, and they routinely had to make arrests by themselves, sometimes with a car full of people.

More questions on Law Enforcement and the Police:


War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.


It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

It’s Fine to Use Facebook to Serve People With Legal Papers, Court Rules

  News & Politics
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?