Not long after the TSA ended its’ nude photo generators following concerns of cancer and privacy, the New York Police Department announced Wednesday that it will use a radiation device to check citizens for weapons from a distance.
Speaking at a gathering at the Waldorf Astoria, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the device would eliminate the need for the traditional pat down procedure. The machine’s main function is to detect terahertz, a natural radiation emitted by both people and inanimate objects.
“If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation, for example a weapon, the device will highlight that object,” Kelly said.
The department also provided evidence of the scanner’s functionality, showcasing a video image of a police officer whose weapon was perfectly visible through his New York Jets jersey when viewed through the scanner.
The machine, small enough to be placed inside a police vehicle and on a street corner, is currently being tested at a shooting range in the Bronx and has proven effective on distances up to 16 feet, although the department would ideally prefer an effectiveness range nearly five times higher before testing it for street usage.
Commissioner Kelly, who has been enthusiastic for the NYPD employing such a device for some time now, stated that this scanner was the result of the department’s collaboration with the London Metropolitan Authority and a contractor.
According to Kelly, “One of our requirements was that the technology must be portable.” He added, “We still have a number of trials to run before we can determine how best to deploy this technology. We’re also talking to our legal staff about this. But we’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made over the past year.”
However, the inherent privacy concerns have not gone unnoticed. “We find this proposal both intriguing and worrisome," Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.
The union has also previously expressed dislike for these “virtual pat downs” and Lieberman once again asserted, “The ability to walk down the street free from a virtual police pat-down is a matter of privacy.”
While security experts have highlighted that it can lead to unjustified stops because of errors, cancer concerns similar to the TSA’s machine seem to have been squashed.
“This is a lot different than nuclear radiation or X-rays," said John Federici, a physics professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. "It doesn't really cause any damage.”
The new device is the latest in an effort to curb gun violence, following Governor Cuomo’s passage of New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act.
With regards to the concerns such as racial profiling and discriminatory practices in the usage of the machine, Commissioner Kelly has assured that the devices will only be used under, “reasonably suspicious circumstances.”