NYPD looking for technology to prevent friendly fire

Published 8 June 2009

The recent accidental shooting of a plain clothes policeman by fellow officers has prompted NYPD to seek technology to prevent friendly fire accidents; the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will help

Incidents of friendly fire occur not only on the battlefield, but also in city streets. On 28 May, for example, a New York City police officer shot and killed Omar Edwards, 25, a cop in plain clothes. AP reports that the NYPD is now looking for a tech solution to prevent such occurrences.

The NYPD is looking into adapting futuristic technology which would allow officers’ guns to recognize one another in an effort to avoid the type of friendly fire incident that left a cop dead last week. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly asked his inner circle to compile a list of department initiatives that would help prevent confrontations between fellow officers.

On Friday, Paul Browne, the deputy commissioner for public information at the NYPD, said the department is talking with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory about the possibility of tailoring technology for the department.

One idea involves the use of radio frequency tags that would allow officers to pinpoint where other cops are in the city, Browne said. Another involves tags that would work gun-to-gun and use an infrared sensor: When a weapon is pulled from an officer’s holster it would trigger a signal that would be sent to the gun of a nearby officer. The signal may be seen or heard.

The research is preliminary. A spokesman for the federal lab said some of the ideas floated by the department, like the use of radio frequency tags, may not work.

We are scheduled to talk with the department next week,” said Pacific Northwest National Laboratory spokesman Geoff Harvey. “Up for discussion will be ideas, capabilities and their limitations. … ‘Why won’t this work?’ will likely be part of the talk.”

Lewis Page notes that the U.S. and other militaries are already well down the road with their own ideas on preventing friendly fire accidents. The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense is now working on a system which would get British forces to show up on the U.S. military’s blue force tracker kit. Meanwhile, U.S. efforts such as Land Warrior (and see 5 May 2009 HS Daily Wire) and the Ground Soldier Ensemble (see 29 May 2009 HS daily Wire) seek to use GPS satnav — perhaps enhanced with Smart Boot (see 14 May 2009 HS Daily Wire) or other inertial-reckoning kit to work inside buildings — to show every soldier where his comrades are.