Anyone reading the recent article in The Cincinnati Enquirer "Police Cameras Have Your Number" would get the impression that this latest crime fighting tool is a sure winner. The camera scans the license plate, it sends the image to a central computer, and a message is returned to the squad car instantly to let the officer know whether that car has a questionable license plate or occupant. One look at the officer in his patrol car with all those computer screens and electronics sure makes us feel safe… or does it?
Civil liberties aside, the new technology in police cruisers is dangerous. Without strict rules of engagement, the use of a license plate scanner and/or other computer equipment in a police cruiser can create more hazards than protection. If you think driving with a cell phone creates a distraction, what happens when you are driving, pointing a camera, and looking at results on a laptop. Accidents happen! There is simply no way the camera or computer should be used in a moving police vehicle. Each police agency must immediately adopt safety rules that require the patrol car to be stopped before the driver engages the camera or computer. While this seems obvious to most, the article didn’t mention how the equipment could be used safely.
Let’s keep our roads safe and require police to observe strict safety protocols when using the equipment. Unless on an emergency run, the police have to follow the same traffic laws as the rest of us. If they hit someone while distracted by the camera, they are responsible for the damages they cause.