Software Could Help Reform Policing — If Only Police Unions Wanted It

tedlistens writes: The CEO of Taser maker Axon, Rick Smith, has a lot of high-tech ideas for fixing policing. One idea for identifying potentially abusive behavior is AI, integrated with the company’s increasingly ubiquitous body cameras and the footage they produce. In a patent application filed last month, Axon describes the ability to search video not only for words and locations but also for clothing, weapons, buildings, and other objects. AI could also tag footage to enable searches for things such as “the characteristics [of] the sounds or words of the audio,” including “the volume (e.g., intensity), tone (e.g., menacing, threatening, helpful, kind), frequency range, or emotions (e.g., anger, elation) of a word or a sound.”

Building that kind of software is a difficult task, and in the realm of law enforcement, one with particularly high stakes. But Smith also faces a more low-tech challenge, he tells Fast Company: making his ideas acceptable both to intransigent police unions and to the communities those police serve. Of course, right now many of those communities aren’t calling for more technology for their police but for deep reform, if not deep budget cuts. And police officers aren’t exactly clamoring for more scrutiny, especially if it’s being done by a computer.

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