(MintPress) – As the nation debates gun control policies on both a state and national level, the New York Police Department (NYPD) announced Wednesday that they were going to begin using new radiation scanners that have the ability to identify concealed weapons from a distance.
As reported in the New York Daily News, the scanners will be installed in police vans or on notoriously violent street corners, which will allow police to identify persons carrying illegal guns without having to pat them down.
The NYPD had temporarily halted its controversial stop-and-frisk program earlier this month after a judge ruled that the program violated constitutional rights and said there were numerous unlawful stops, but the program resumed this week.
The stop-and-frisk program allows a police officer who has reasonable suspicion that a person who has committed, is in the process of committing or will immediately commit a felony or a penal law misdemeanor to stop and question the person, and — if the officer reasonably suspects that he or she is in danger of committing or being subject to physical injury — frisk the person for weapons.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the NYPD has already begun testing the scanners and hopes to implement them very soon.
The scanners were developed in conjunction with the London Metropolitan Police and the devices pick up on the terahertz radiation — radiation naturally emitted by both humans and inanimate objects — and allow police to view anything blocking the radiation, including concealed weapons.
“If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation, for example a weapon, the device will highlight that object,” Kelly said.
In reaction to the NYPD’s announcement about the scanners, some civil rights groups have questioned the legality of their usage and have referred to the scanners as “virtual pat-downs.” Similarly, some security experts have warned that false positives from the scanners could lead to unjustified stops and pat-downs.
“Any technology that allows police to peer into a person’s body or possessions raises a lot of questions,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “But to the extent that this technology reduces the abuse of stop-and-frisk that harms hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers every year, we’re intrigued by the possibilities.”
“We still have a number of trials to run before we can determine how best to deploy this technology,” Kelly said. “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.”
Paul Browne, chief spokesperson for the NYPD, said the “multimillion” dollar scanners are being paid for by the U.S. Department of Defense, but wouldn’t specify an exact cost of the equipment. Browne added that a future goal is to get the technology in a device small enough that officers would be able to carry it on their gun belt.