Axon, The company formerly known as Taser, which provides most of the police cameras, has a few new tech tools for police officers that can reduce paperwork and improve response times. But is this really necessary at a time when the basic resources and tasks of the police are being called into question? The company's CEO also has reservations.
The new products that Axon supplies will no doubt be useful to police and rescue workers across the country. The first is the ability to automatically transcribe voices onto body camera footage (through machine learning, of course). As someone who has to deal with a lot of spoken content, I can easily convince of the usefulness of such a tool.
Body cams create, among other things, records of the interactions of the officers, which have to be sorted and referenced. In doing so, however, the video is largely scrubbed manually in order to determine that such and such an exchange has taken place over and over again at one time or another. By providing a crude log immediately, important events can be found and listed quickly, saving time and effort.
The word is rough though: Smith knew this was supposed to be a transcription aid, not judicial documents. But the company "has tried to create products that have value in the face of accuracy today."
I feared that this service, like others I've seen, might have higher error rates for people whose speech patterns differ from those of the training set. If you don't have people with Puerto Rican or Southern accents in the training data, or people using local slang or dialects, the algorithm will treat them worse. Smith noted that they licensed their speech recognition algorithm and tested it on real-world data before selecting it, but didn't have much to say about maintaining a diverse dataset to nip the bias in the bud. Even if they did not write the algorithm, it is important for both ethical and practical reasons. Hopefully the company will look into it.
The other new product from Axon is a system for integrating the various tools used in 911 dispatch and police crime centers.
“There is a radio system, a call system for routing, the shipping software, the dispatcher usually angrily typing notes into the software like a command line interface, they communicate with officers on site via a push-to-talk radio and that is not a dedicated channel . I was impressed that these people did their job with such a thin pipe, ”said Smith. “These systems are not integrated – they may be in completely different buildings. It feels like a lot of human glue and is expensive and complicated. We see it all come together. "
The “Axon Respond” software helps to bring all of this to the fingertips of a dispatcher, along with relevant data such as the availability of an officer in the region, his expertise, etc. Anything that makes an emergency call smoother and the right ones would certainly be welcome Bring resources to the right place.
You can share your vision in the concept video below – the tools are under development but don't seem ready to be filmed yet.
It's not just about getting more cops faster, either, although that is an option.
"We have a client who doesn't want to use our live streaming for tactical purposes, but rather to get a psychiatrist and give an assessment of the person," noted Smith. "We could possibly get a very different result if you had a trained professional than a man with a gun and a stick."
More tools, more abuse?
That all sounds very nice, except that the country is currently in a major crisis that has to do with the police abusing their authority and the tools at their disposal – guns, sticks and body cameras.
A major criticism of body cameras is that they are supposedly accountable, but police authorities use them and the footage they capture very sparingly, withholding it when the police look bad and releasing it when it advances their preferred narrative. I've seen it myself so this is no longer a theory to me and I asked Smith what he thought of it. He did not deny that this had happened, but did not agree that the technology is a net negative.
"Tech is not a panacea," he said. "It won't solve these problems for us. But how can you solve some of these problems without body cameras? People say that body cameras did not prevent George Floyd's death, and it is true. But I think the George Floyd incident is going to lead to a more lasting change since body cameras were in place. If they weren't, I don't know that we would see the energy of police leaders across the country who we are. They see law enforcement officers across the country saying, "That was wrong . You killed George Floyd. “You never see that. The police just don't come out and criticize their colleagues. But in this case there was enough evidence. "
Certainly the body camera footage clarified the behavior of the officers who killed Floyd. However, the obvious opposite of this is that if viewers hadn't filmed the encounter at all, there is a good chance that the footage from the body camera would never have been seen publicly. Even if half of the country requested it, the video would practically have to be taken out of the department's hands.
However, the idea is for Axon to prepare for the law enforcement functions of the future by selling the tools for them today. But if, as I invited Smith, many large police departments are faced with defunding or significant cuts and restructuring, as is likely to appear in the next decade, where is Axon?
"We strive to be adaptable to the rest in this area," said Smith. “The way the government buys technology has not rewarded agile companies that do know how to manage a complex procurement system. We deliberately avoided this because we believe this is a great way to rebuild the very problems we have today. "
"I said, why don't we do this with a clean sheet of paper and take the risk? And if it's better, our customers will find the way to buy it," he continued. "When we started developing When we started with cloud software, our clients told us that it was illegal to use that software, so over the next few years there have been a number of “hell no” s, but now it's a lot safer for 90 percent of agencies, so we're building Things for the emerging world. These catalysts offer challenges, but also opportunities. "