Police shootings have come under heightened scrutiny in the United States lately in the wake of several recent fatal events, including the killing of 18-year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer. Now a startup company is hoping to track police shootings more closely for both the sake of the officers and the wider public. The company, Yardarm, has developed a sensor that fits in the base of a police officer's Glock sidearm, which records not only every time the gun is fired, but other potentially revealing information including location, the direction the weapon was pointed when fired, and when exactly it was unholstered. The encrypted data is then sent wirelessly to a mobile app in realtime, where other officers and commanders can access it, allowing them to respond if an officer is in trouble. Yardarm announced last week that it has just begun field trials of the technology with the Sheriff's Department of Santa Cruz, California, and the Carrollton, Texas Police Department. It will also be demoing the tech this week at a police conference in Orlando, Florida.
Yardam was founded in the wake of the horrific 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shootings and initially its founders wanted to make a consumer smart gun that could be remotely disabled, but abandoned those plans because of resistance from gun owners and gun rights advocates, the Huffington Post notes. Whether Yardarm's sensors — reportedly inspired by electronic luggage trackers — catch on with police departments or not, it's worth pointing out that the data they record can't answer some key questions about police encounters, such as what transpired before a gun was unholstered, why in particular it was drawn, and whether police or suspects tried to de-escalate the situation before resorting to deadly force. It's unclear whether anyone besides police departments — defense attorneys, for example — would have access to the data and under what conditions. The knowledge that a police officer's sidearm is being tracked could also give some officers pause before pointing their weapons, for better or worse. At the same time, Yardarm's data could provide greater objective detail about a police shooting than is available now, and the company is but one of many seeking to provide police departments with more advanced officer tracking products.