Set in a near-future Chicago, the new Fox drama APB imagines what might happen if an arrogant tech billionaire, driven by the unsolved murder of a friend and by the woeful state of the local police's outdated gear, lets the cops use his gadgets. It's an interesting premise, but so far the show has failed to deliver on its promise.
The tech includes drones, fancy cars, a crime-reporting app, body cameras, protective vests, and software that lets officers use the massive amount of data being collected. It all seems very impressive until certain issues become conspicuous by their absence.
Naturally, APB shows police using their new tools to catch people who viewers know are the bad guys. But as the newly outfitted officers of Chicago's 13th District drive around in their high-tech cruisers, not one person at headquarters or any of the officers on the street raise the privacy issues associated with the devices at their disposal, including a drone we see peeping into innocent people's apartments during a search for suspects.
The history of law enforcement shows that the government will use all manner of equipment to snoop on citizens. Drones and other new tools, real or imagined, are not likely to be any exception. Speculative fiction about the proliferation of this new police technology should tackle the privacy issues head on. How police use and abuse their tools is more important to citizens than the questions the show raises about whether those tools should be funded publicly or privately.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "APB".