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MailTribune.com
  • Device on police cars is a heat sensor

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  • Email — Story to a Friend — — — — August 6, 2006
    What is that weird black device on top of Medford police cars' light bars? It looks like something mounted on an Apache gunship. They look like some sort of night vision device.
    --
    That's a good guess, Chuck. It's a thermal imaging device, and is only mounted on one patrol car, according to Medford Lt. Bob Hansen.
    The camera picks up any kind of heated object &
    8212; including the human body &
    8212; and highlights it, making it easier for the officer to see, Hansen said.
    "We can use it at night, if we have a suspect hiding in an orchard," he added. "Or if we roll up on a burglary, we can see if someone is hiding in bushes beside the house."
    The department purchased the camera through a government grant about a year ago, Hansen said.
    Hunting humans isn't the camera's only use. If an armed robber tosses his gun while fleeing police, the camera can see the gun because it may still be warm from the suspect's hand, or from having been fired, Hansen said.
    An officer can rotate the camera 360 degrees using a joystick. Each Medford officer is trained to use the camera, Hansen said.
    Unlike some fictional heat-sensitive techno-gadgets featured in spy films, this camera can't see through walls.
    "We can't spy through into people's homes to find out what they're doing," Hansen said. "We're not Superman."
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