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Police to discuss innovation at Cambridge conference

Can pocket-sized drones assist in search and rescue missions? How can officers avoid the many pitfalls of social media when using it to interact with constituents? Is “brain fingerprinting” a practical approach to prying information from alleged suspects?

All of these questions, and more, will take center stage next week during this year’s Police Innovation Conference in Cambridge.

Officers from departments across the country will converge in the city’s innovation hub — Kendall Square — to get an up-close look at some of the latest technologies.

The event, which last took place in 2013, will be held at the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center, or NERD.


It will features speakers from both the public and private sectors, with many high-ranking police officials flying from as far away as Seattle to offer their expertise to fellow officers.

“Innovations in law enforcement technology are disrupting the policing landscape,” according to organizers, and it’s important not to “get left behind.”

The three-day conference is organized and hosted by Peter Olson, founder and owner of Wired Blue, which makes mobile applications for police departments. Cambridge police and Microsoft co-host the event.

“Our goal with the second police conference is to provide leading-edge content, an ambitious agenda, and a unique technology venue,” said Olson in a statement. “Cambridge is a top tech location and the Microsoft building offers police a more exciting and conducive venue than a typical police conference.”

Jeremy Warnick, a spokesman for Cambridge police, said the rapid pace in which technology is advancing can become overwhelming for departments that are struggling to adapt.

“This gives us an opportunity to get a better understanding about how to best implement that technology,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s to get a better sense of what’s out there, and what may just be white noise at this point.”


Featured discussions include “Brain Fingerprinting, The Future of Lie Detection”; “UAV and Drones”; and “Youth, Gangs & Social Media,” according to the event’s website.

The panel on drones will highlight a new pocket drone that can be used for search purposes.

Brain fingerprinting is the use of brain waves to detect whether a person has concealed information, a high-tech variation on the lie detector.

Another session, titled “Viral Media,” will look at controversial videos of police confrontations captured by bystanders that have been shared across the Internet.

“The presentation will provide law enforcement with a better understanding of viral media and offer ways to adapt and steer the message in a more positive way,” according to a description about the panel.

Perhaps one of the most pertinent issues in the lineup next week is a panel dedicated to the use of police body cameras, a subject that has become the focus of national discussion.

Warnick said that Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas will be one of the panelists during that portion of the conference.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.