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Google Glass Finds its Way into Law Enforcement

It was only a matter of time before a project like Google Glass tapped into the law enforcement arena. Google Glass, with the help of CopTrax

was used by the Byron, Ga. Police Department to perform the first successful field trail of Google Glass by law enforcement officials. CopTrax is a new in-car video system from Stalker.

Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display that is being developed by Google in its Project Glass research and development project with the goal of producing a mass-market ubiquitous computer. Still just a prototype and not yet available,

Google Glass displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format that can interact with the Internet via natural language voice commands.

The CopTrax/Glass field trial was designed to test Glass functionality in the CopTrax video capture environment during a number of common police activities such as routine traffic enforcement patrol, stops issuing citations, arrests and firearms practice, according to Lt. Bryan Hunter, patrol commander at the Byron Police.

Operation “Futuristic Police Officer” was the first known test of Google Glass in actual law enforcement situations and environments and was designed to test Glass’ compatibility with CopTrax’s innovative real-time video streaming, high-resolution video capture, and cloud storage, and live GPS tracking from any Internet-connected computer.

Until this test, body-worn video cameras have been used by police officers but none have the capability of supplying real-time streaming video and Geo-location information, according to the Byron Police. The combination of Google Glass and CopTrax also enhances proximity alerts and Geo fencing information for the officer on patrol.

“In addition to testing routine police activities, another goal of the field trial was to study the increased situational awareness and capture of high-quality audio and video evidence from the officer’s perspective,” said Lt. Hunter, who served as the field trial supervisor.


In-field Testing

The field test was performed in September 2013. Sgt. Eric Ferris and K9 Officer Corporal Clay Fauquier were outfitted with Google Glass while running the CopTrax application. The officers performed several traffic stops while using the Google Glass device running with the CopTrax application and they determined that the Google Glass device did not obstruct their view or movement while driving and interacting with speed enforcement equipment. They reported no interference by Google Glass when exiting and re-entering the patrol vehicle or interacting with motorists.

“Wearing Google Glass caused no problems or interference. Recording video from the officer’s point of view could be helpful if questions about the circumstances of the arrest are raised,” Cpl. Fauquier said. Officers performed one arrest while using the Google Glass device running the CopTrax app. The officers said the Google Glass device did not interfere with their detainment or control of the subject.

“Ultimately, CopTrax is meant to save lives and careers through accurate capture of events and positive location preservation,” said CopTrax Product Manager Bill Switzer. “Overall, the tests were quite positive. Google Glass is the ideal body-worn video device. It gives correct perspective and follows the officer’s head movements, unlike other clip-on type cameras,” he said.

“The image quality from the Google Glass device was incredibly crisp and clear. Since Glass is worn at the officer’s eye level, viewing the video from Project Futuristic Police Officer was like looking through the officer’s eyes,” Switzer said. “The video that we captured was amazing. We are dedicated to officer safety and we appreciate the opportunity to use technology to protect those who protect us,” Switzer said.

Officers also tested their service pistols and patrol rifles to check video stability, device retention, and effects of recoil. “Target acquisition was great. We fired an H&K UMP 9mm full auto with a red dot sight system. We had no problem acquiring the target. Engaging the target in full auto, the vibration or recoil of the weapon didn’t bother the optics of the Google Glass, and I was able to get a clear sight picture,” Sgt. Ferris said.

While Sgt. Farris and Cpl. Fauquier were testing Google Glass, they found it to be better than expected. The miniature screen didn’t obstruct their view and with the camera being at eye level it was great to be able to capture exactly what the officer was seeing. One downside, according to their testing, was that if someone is left eye dominant, it can be difficult to use.

The battery life was another area of concern. It is understandable that such a small piece of equipment will not last for a 12-hour shift, but that could be another obstacle with Google Glass being used for law enforcement. Another possible drawback would be for departments that don’t provide cell phones for every officer, because that could leave the officer’s personal cell phone records open to a subpoena.

“We can see Google Glass being useful for all departments in the future especially as more applications are integrated into the system such as LPR systems and facial recognition,” Lt. Hunter said. “In today’s world, prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys and jurors like to see video. Using video this way would only increase convictions as long as everything was done legally to start with. I could really see this system being useful for DUI cases where standardized field sobriety test are used. If the officer is doing the HGN test and the nystagmus shows on the video, that would be a tremendous benefit in prosecution.”


Yesenia Duran is technical editor for

LAW and ORDER and Tactical Response Magazines, and was previously Managing Editor for Hendon Publishing. She may be reached at


Published in Law and Order, Apr 2014

Rating : 10.0

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