In movies like "Bad Boys" and "Lethal Weapon", renegade cops commonly race through the streets firing off round after round in hot pursuit of the bad guys – usually while simultaneously tossing off one-liners and demolishing everything in their paths. In real life, such actions often have more grim and serious consequences. Fortunately, non-lethal technologies are emerging to make apprehending suspects easier, and less dangerous for all involved.
One example is the StarChase system, an invention designed to take some of the peril out of high-speed pursuits. In the more than 100,000 chases that take place in the US every year, risk levels are extremely high – for officers, suspects, drivers and pedestrians. StarChase technology helps to diminish such risks by replacing the need for a chase with a safer way to catch suspects. The system consists of a compressed-air launcher with laser targeting that mounts inside the grille of a police car and shoots out a homing device (containing an internal GPS receiver, transmitter and power supply). The homing device sticks to any vehicle it hits, and sends its location to dispatch. From there, a dispatcher or other trained professional views the vehicle's real-time movements on a digital roadmap and develops a strategy to intercept it. The StarChase system also automatically records all data, creating a historical record of the event.
While the StarChase gives police the ability to opt out of a dangerous chase and still nab the suspect, another new technology in the works could have a similar benefit – but for officers on foot. The LED Incapacitator could help officers keep weapons in their holsters. Developed in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security, among others, the LED Incapacitator comes from Intelligent Optical Systems Inc. (IOS) – a creator of cutting-edge technologies in optical sensing and instrumentation. Similar in appearance to a flashlight, an officer shines the device in a suspect's eyes. Using extremely bright, strobe sequences of light in different colors, the invention flashes in a pre-defined pattern that the human brain can not immediately adjust to. This creates a "wall of light" that blinds and dizzies the suspect and fogs the officer's location – giving the law enforcement agent a brief window of time to subdue the suspect. Despite its power, the LED Incapacitator does not have a high enough intensity to actually harm a suspect's eyes.
Both the StarChase and the LED Incapacitator are garnering interest from law enforcement as the movement toward non-lethal technologies continues to gain momentum. The StarChaser is currently available for police departments to purchase from representatives throughout the United States, while the LED Incapacitator is still in development with IOS. Unfortunately, while both inventions could potentially help make real-world streets safer in the near future, they'll probably do nothing to stop those loveable movie cops from obliterating entire city blocks and mindlessly unloading their weapons on suspected perps.