For years police departments have had the option of obtaining specialized motion detection technology to use while out in the field. Yet the morality and use of these technologies have only recently been called to question. The controversy recently became a mainstream concern after reports surfaced last December that at least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have equipped their officers with radar devices capable of “looking through walls”. The reports have raised awareness about the ongoing use of motion detection technology and concerns about when and how these devices should be utilized.
While the radar technologies do not actually allow officers to visually see through walls or other obstructions, they do allow police personnel to determine where an individual is located inside a structure and whether or not they are moving. These systems use fine tuned radio waves which travel through walls and other material obstructions to identify the contents of the space beyond the officer’s line of sight. Devices such as the Range-R, have been available to authorities since 2012, enabling officers to detected movement on the other side of a wall and estimate how far away the movement is. Some are reportedly fine tuned enough to detect motion as small as a human breath. The FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service are among the agencies that utilize these radar systems.
The use of these radar systems was widely unknown to the public until December 2014, when a Denver federal appeals court heard a case where officers had used such technology before entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The appeals court judges reportedly expressed concern that agents had used the technology without a search warrant, which is a potential violation of citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights. Civilian’s right groups have also raised concerns that the radar technology creates legal and privacy issues which should be addressed before further use. The U.S. Supreme Court has historically ruled that officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors on private dwellings and property without first obtaining a search warrant. Which means that police departments in possession of these technologies could face liability concerns and lawsuits should the proper due diligence and procedures not be followed.
As technology evolves and becomes more widely available, police departments and authorities have to adapt to the changing liability exposures which can accompany their use and implementation. At Professional Government Underwriters Inc., we specialize in police and law enforcement liability insurance. Our Police Professional Liability Insurance can help protect you against a variety of work related liability claims so you can rest assured and continue fulfilling your civic duties. We also offer full service insurance writing for public officials and municipalities to help mitigate the risks that accompany serving the public. Please Contact Us today for more information about our Police Department Liability coverage or any of our offerings.