I’m sure we’ve all seen the rather fanciful use of technology on many television (and movie) law enforcement dramas, ranging from satellites capable of tracking a person in real time to the point of being able to hear the conversation they are having, to a single partial fingerprint being turned in to a complete set of fingerprints and an employment history in the space of about two seconds…along with the idea that recorded CCTV footage (on VHS cassette) of an out of focus numberplate in the distance can somehow be magically restored to a sharp high resolution image of the numberplate, and just for good measure, a perfect image of the people in the car.
How refreshing it is, therefore, to see British police drama “The Bill” using technology in a much more realistic way. Last year I mentioned London’s CCTV network , and this is definitely the most commonly used piece of technology on The Bill. It is rarely conclusive on its own, but is extremely helpful when it comes to proving or disproving alibis, and generally quite helpful in putting a case together. The pictures are generally quite realistic in that they aren’t exactly great quality, and impossible things such as zooming in to a pre-recorded image are never done.
On the weekend I read with interest a blog post by Russell Coker  about The Bill‘s use of technology which, for somebody who stopped watching the bill about a decade ago due to a rather ridiculous story about piracy, is quite complementary. Russell makes a point about the electronic whiteboard used to collate a timeline and various bits of data about the case CID (Criminal Investigation Department) were working on, being very realistic (I would debate that for the handwriting recognition which seemed a bit too perfect). It’s interesting that Russell picked this episode as his return to The Bill as it was their first to use an electronic whiteboard. It was a welcome upgrade to the standard whiteboard they had been using, especially due to the ease with which they were able to move events around on the timeline.
The software would also be useful in court, as rather than recreating the whiteboard or producing photos of it, the entire whiteboard could be displayed on a screen, saving valuable court time.
Russell did question whether the software running the whiteboard was used by British Police; Considering The Bill’s strong relationship with the Metropolitan Police (they use real warrant cards, uniforms and police cars, amongst other things), I would be very surprised if the software or something very similar to it isn’t used by the police.
It is only within the last year that I started watching The Bill again, after dropping it in disgust during its peculiar soap opera phase. I am very pleased with the current cast and production team, and I am also pleased with the ABC’s move to screen both episodes on Saturday night. Apparently the Tuesday episode wasn’t rating particularly well, so hopefully the “summer” move will be continued through the year. Repeating them on ABC2 on Tuesday is a nice touch as well.