“K-9 cam” is new aid for cops

A technological breakthrough in miniaturized cameras is giving New York City police officers a dog’s-eye view of crime scenes and search-and-rescue operations.

Recon  the Remote Canine Optical Navigator  was developed by the Police Department’s Technical Assistance Response Unit. A three-pound, infrared camera attaches to a leather harness that goes around a dog’s neck and transmits back to television screen via an attached antenna so that officers can see what the dog is doing and what he sees.

Recon got its first test in September when Officer Gary Freitag and his K-9 partner, Ace, a four-year-old German shepherd, were assigned to search a Staten Island house where Michael Nunno, a suspected gunman, was hiding.

Nunno, who had exchanged gunfire with officers, refused to establish contact with hostage negotiators. Surveillance cameras had failed to detect him.

Ace was sent into the basement, and then the first floor to search for him. Recon will only be used when a suspect is hiding, said Sgt. Stephen Berger, coordinator of the police K-9 unit. “We don’t want the dog to confront a gun  he’s no match for it,” he said. “Once we see on the camera where the suspect is, we get the dog out.”

Pictures transmitted back to police showed Ace moving through the house, sniffing at some cookies in the kitchen, but not eating any. The dogs are trained never to eat anything that isn’t given to them by their partner.

After the dog scouted the basement and first floor, police were able to move into those areas without fear of attack. Ace finally found Nunno in a second floor bathroom, shot to death.

Testing is now underway to see if a microphone can be attached to pick up sounds and allow police to give commands to the dog through audio signals. A bulletproof vest for dogs is also in development.

Officials said they are planning to use the “dog-cam” to search for victims in collapsed buildings or other disasters where people could be trapped under wreckage.


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Published in Law Enforcement News
Nov. 15, 1996.
© 1996, LEN Inc.