I have seen the future of law enforcement, and recent news suggests that it could be coming to New Jersey.
First of all, we are closer to having Robocops than ever. Over at C|Net, Tim Hornyak reports on a new project to deploy remote-controlled robotic police:
Researchers at Florida International University's Discovery Lab are working with a member of the U.S. Navy Reserves to build telepresence robots that could patrol while being controlled by disabled police officers and military vets. In a sense, they would be hybrid man-machine cops, like RoboCop. Lieutenant Commander Jeremy Robins has given $20,000 to the lab and borrowed two robots valued at nearly $500,000 from the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) to realize his vision of bringing some of the thousands of disabled cops and soldiers in the U.S. back to the workforce. They would work as patrol officers, operating wheeled telepresence robots and doing everything from responding to 911 calls and writing parking tickets to ensuring the security of nuclear facilities.
That's all very nice, but we know that every piece of technology has the potential to be used for the forces of evil as well as good.
If you recall the movie Robocop, the cyborg enforcers were deployed because the Detroit police department was unionized and kept having these pesky strikes for better treatment. And now Camden, New Jersey is setting up the conditions for a Robocop-like scenario by firing its (unionized) police force. They're replacing them with a non-union police department, which the Camden City Council claims will allow them to hire more officers for the same price.
The plan to replace police officers who have health benefits and pension plans with non-unionized ones who may have none of those things is, to locals, a scary idea. Huffington Post's John Rudolph reports:
John Williamson, president of the city's police union, said the scarcity of details available about the new agency was a clear sign that residents were being being used in a large-scale experiment in public safety with uncertain consequences.
"This plan is unproven, untested and unstudied," Williamson said. "They're playing mad scientist with people's lives."
But while you're going all mad scientist, why bother with humans at all? Even if those new cops are scabs, you still have to pay them. Why not just bring in cyborgs instead? Even if Discovery Lab doesn't partner with Camden to bring them the ultimate low-cost law enforcement labor force, somebody else will. If nothing else, we'll get an amazing reboot movie "based on true events." New Jersey Robocop has quite a ring to it.